Controversy mars the renaming of Brandfort to Winnie Mandela

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Winnie Madikizela Mandela at her 80th birthday celebrations. Credit: Elmond Jiyane, GCIS
Winnie Madikizela Mandela at her 80th birthday celebrations. Credit: Elmond Jiyane, GCIS
Elmond Jiyane, GCIS
  • Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa approved the name change, which was gazetted on Friday.
  • Both the DA and COPE are petitioning the government. 
  • Brandfort is where Winnie Mandela was banished to by the apartheid government in 1977.

The Department of Arts and Culture's grand announcement to rename the small town, Brandfort, in the Free State, after the late Winnie Mandela has left political parties hot under the collar.

Many are urging the government to reverse its decision.

The DA said it had lodged a petition to ensure that proper participation is adhered to.

The DA's ward councillor at the Masilonyana local municipality, Marieta Visser, said: "The issue here is not that a town is renamed nor the suggested name. The only issue is public participation. Is this really what the community wants? We need to see where and when the community was informed. We cannot have people from outside deciding on something so important as a name change."

Visser said they believe the process is flawed.

"The residents must have the opportunity to speak their mind. We must ask the people living in Slovo Park, who are without services for more than a decade, if they want the name changed. We also must listen to the economically-active section and business. We will have to give the residents the opportunity to comment within the prescribed period," she added.

READ | Verwoerd's former town Brandfort in Free State to be renamed after Winnie Mandela

Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa approved the name change, which was gazetted on Friday.

Brandfort is town to which the late struggle icon was banished by the apartheid government in 1977.

COPE spokesperson Dennis Bloem said the government must rescind the decision.

"Generations to come will be deprived of the true history and legacy of our struggle heroes and heroines if we allow this government to continue with their irresponsible decision. The name Brandfort carries a very rich history as part of our painful past. The fact of the matter is that Winnie Mandela was banished to Brandfort in the Free State and not to Winnie Mandela," Bloem said.

Mthethwa said: "This name change is just one of the ways that the department is honouring Winnie Mandela's legacy, as we approach Women's Day under the 2021 theme 'The Year of Charlotte Mannya-Maxeke: Realising Women’s Rights'. This theme is aimed at promoting women's equality and sustaining the fight against gender-based violence and femicide. It is pivotal that our geographical names reflect the history of such icons."

ALSO READ | Brandfort, Hoffman Square in Free State may be renamed to honour struggle icons - report

The ANC in the Free State said all due processes were followed.

The ANC's Free State interim provincial committee representative, Thabo Meeko, said: "These are government processes, and the ANC gets a briefing from its deployers. We were assured all that is required by law was adhered to."

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