Museum campaigns to put District Six back on the map

Cape Town's famous District Six was in the spotlight at the Western Cape High Court earlier this year. (Jenni Evans/News24)
Cape Town's famous District Six was in the spotlight at the Western Cape High Court earlier this year. (Jenni Evans/News24)

A Cape Town museum has re-ignited a campaign to change Zonnebloem in central Cape Town back to District Six because it is an integral part of history.

District Six Museum director Bonita Bennett said on Thursday the campaign was part of wider restitution efforts.

"People do feel that part of their history, who they are, their identity has been erased with this name," she explained.

"When sitting with ex-residents, most people do not even speak about Zonnebloem. To them, it is like: 'What do you mean it is not District Six?' It's been such a strong reference point to them."

Bennett said she understood the process was to apply to the provincial geographical names committee, which they did in June last year.

They were invited to make a presentation in February this year and there will be a follow-up meeting next week.

"We have some signatures to support the campaign, but their concern is that they want broader input," she said.

The campaign included door-to-door visits as well as letters to businesses and institutions including schools and clinics. Letters of support can also be signed in the museum's bookshop and coffee shop.

Bennett clarified that they did not have an issue with the name Zonnebloem Estate, which housed schools and an arts centre. It is the name of the area as a whole that they are targeting.

Bennett said they had not encountered any negative input as such.

"Some people feel it's a bit of a waste of energy and say they should rather be putting effort into getting our homes back, which I do understand."

She said approving the name change would be an easy win for the government by showing how regulatory frameworks worked in support of people.

It recently emerged in the Western Cape High Court that District Six claimants continued to be victims of bureaucracy and the ineptitude of politicians, after former rural development and land reform minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane conceded that she had failed to comply with a court order from November regarding the development of the area.

READ: 'You were relying on hope, not reality' - Judge tells Nkoana-Mashabane, referring to District Six

City of Cape Town media manager Luthando Tyhalibongo said the City had not received a request or proposal to rename the area.

"It is important to note that all proposals for name changes or new names for suburbs, streets, reserves, etc. must be supported by a motivation, and submitted to the City for consideration," he added.

Once a proposal is received, the mayoral committee will discuss it and check if it complies with the City's naming and nomination policy.

If it does, the mayoral committee will then recommend that the City follows a public participation process.

"Once concluded, the City's Public Participation Unit will compile a report about the outcome of the public participation process and submit it to the mayoral committee for consideration. The committee will then make a recommendation to the council for a final decision," Tyhalibongo said.

"Thus, no name change can take place without a public participation process, and approval by full council."

Provincial cultural affairs communications head, Tania Colyn, confirmed the committee tabled the application and was awaiting the results of the public participation process.

She said a City of Cape Town representative was part of the committee.

Once the committee received the results and application for renaming Zonnebloem,  it would then be sent to Cultural Affairs MEC Anroux Marais.

"If she is in agreement with the recommendation, she will make a recommendation to the National Arts and Culture Minister."

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