Welcome to Makhanda, formerly known as Grahamstown

Cathedral in Makhanda (iStock)
Cathedral in Makhanda (iStock)

It's welcome to Makhanda and goodbye to Grahamstown after Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa announced that he had made a final determination on the name change on Tuesday evening.

In a statement, Mthethwa announced the final decision regarding the gazetted name change of the Eastern Cape town to Makhanda after fulfilling all legal obligations for the change.

In June, the minister published in the Government Gazette No 41738 the approval of the renaming of Grahamstown to Makhanda after receiving a recommendation from the South African Geographical Names Council (SAGNC).

READ: Grahamstown to be renamed Makhanda after Xhosa warrior

Mthethwa's spokesperson Asanda Magaqa said more than 332 objections to the name change were received, with reasons including lack of consultation, historical sentiment and nostalgia and the cost implications of the name change.

"Letters objecting to the gazetted name change were acknowledged in writing by Minister Mthethwa," said Magaqa in a statement.

"After taking into consideration complaints, the advice of the SAGNC, and the authoritative documents cited above, the minister carefully applied his mind and took a final decision.

'No just cause to withdraw notice'

"As of Tuesday 2 October 2018, the minister has formally began responding to each and every complainant informing them of his decision.

"Minister Mthethwa now wishes to advise members of the press that following this thorough, assiduous and painstaking process, he has found no just cause to withdraw the notice published in the Government Gazette on 29 June 2018 and as such the proclamation as published in the Government Gazette in question stands."

Mthethwa has also advised each objector that he would refer each complaint to the SAGNC for further advice as directed by the South African Geographical Names Act of 1998.

"The historical sentiments and arguments around heritage values were noted," said Mthethwa.

"While it is indeed the Department of Arts and Culture's mandate to promote and preserve our heritage, we cannot allow these sentiments to undermine government's transformational agenda on the country's heritage landscape.

"Standardisation of geographical names forms part of a broader government transformation programme toward addressing the imbalances of the past, and it forms part of the symbolic reparations as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission."

'John Graham - a name that evokes unimaginable pain'

The town formerly known as Grahamstown was named after Lieutenant Colonel John Graham whose role in the Frontier Wars was to exercise the "maximum degree of terror" on the Xhosa people and who was and is still infamous for his methods to "break the back of the native" by employing the most savage means imaginable, including liberally employing the "scorched earth policy" against those he conquered, said the department in a statement.

"Burning their homes, their crops, their livestock and homes, before murdering the warriors he met in battle, and butchering even women and children in a mass extermination of a people whose descendants can still be found in the area.

"The name of John Graham is one that evokes unimaginable pain."

Makhanda ka Nxele was a warrior, war doctor, philosopher and prophet whose heroics in the Frontier Wars included an attack on a British garrison at the locality, according to the department.

"The renaming of this town will ensure that Makhanda ka Nxele's memory is immortalised, and rightfully so."

Magaqa said an event would be held in due course to commemorate the name change.

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