Categories: GovernmentNews
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2023-12-07 8:20 AM

South Africa’s Geographical Identity Evolves: Latest Name Changes

  • Geographical Name Changes in South Africa: The Department of Sport, Art, and Culture in South Africa has announced significant name changes, primarily focusing on villages and settlements in the Eastern Cape. This initiative is part of a broader trend of renaming geographic features, particularly concentrated in the Eastern Cape region.
  • Process and Criteria for Name Changes: The article outlines the detailed process and criteria for initiating name changes in South Africa. It involves community-driven proposals, extensive public consultations, review by relevant councils, ministerial approval, and a period for public objections before the final decision is made.
  • Emphasis on Community Engagement: Minister Zizi Kodwa highlighted the critical role of community engagement in driving these changes. The article underscores the importance of public involvement and awareness campaigns, as well as challenges faced in certain provinces like the Free State, where communities prioritize other pressing issues over name change appeals.
By Miriam Matoma

In a bid to honor history, reflect cultural identities, and reshape the geographical landscape, the Department of Sport, Art, and Culture in South Africa has embarked on another round of significant name changes. The focus this time lies on villages and a human settlement nestled within the Eastern Cape province. These alterations are aimed at redefining the essence and narratives attached to these locations.

The recent changes unveiled are as follows:

  1. Makhatlanyeng village will now be officially known as Seqebuku.
  2. Ramafole village will retain its name, officially registered as such.
  3. The township in Matatiele Local Municipality is undergoing a transition to Willie Jones.

This initiative forms part of a broader trend in South Africa, particularly pronounced within the Eastern Cape, where a substantial number of name changes have taken place in recent years. While there have been developments in naming new geographic features in KwaZulu-Natal, the focal point of altered names for towns and cities has predominantly been the Eastern Cape region.

Statistics from the Department highlight a staggering count of 103 geographical name changes within the Eastern Cape since the inception of these efforts back in 2019.

Minister Zizi Kodwa emphasized the imperative to accelerate the pace of name changes in the Free State province, noting its sluggish progress in this transformative journey.

To expedite this process, the South African Geographical Names Council orchestrated an awareness campaign in Bloemfontein on June 28, 2023. This pivotal event targeted district municipalities and the Provincial Geographical Names Committee, disseminating crucial information regarding the requisite procedures for proposing changes in the nomenclature of streets, towns, and cities.

Minister Kodwa underscored the significance of public involvement, stressing that community engagement remains a cornerstone of this transformation. He highlighted the live streaming of the awareness workshop to the Free State province, aiming to enhance community awareness and urgency in redefining South Africa’s naming landscape.

The minister acknowledged that communities in the Free State have been preoccupied with pressing service delivery issues, resulting in fewer appeals or recommendations for name changes.

The Process of Name Changes in South Africa

Name changes in South Africa are community-driven initiatives, requiring active participation and support from the affected populace. The Department or provincial governments cannot unilaterally initiate such changes.

Minister Kodwa delineated the meticulous process underlying the alteration of names within the country during a parliamentary Q&A session.

Here’s an outline of the steps involved in initiating a name change:

Proposal Initiation:

  • Communities or groups of citizens can propose a name change under the South African Geographical Council Act, Act No 118 of 1998.
  • There’s no specific threshold for community support, but compelling arguments, evidence of public consultation, and where applicable, permission from relevant families are considered.

Application and Review Process:

  • Applicants, who must be South African citizens, complete a prescribed application form submitted to the Provincial Geographical Names Committee (PGNC).
  • The PGNC conducts thorough research to verify the proposed name’s uniqueness, non-duplication of existing names, and its alignment with racial and gender considerations.
  • Public consultation meetings are held, advertised extensively through local media, allowing communities to engage in discussions and voice their opinions.

Approval and Ministerial Decision:

  • Local community support, evidenced by attendance registers and meeting minutes, is crucial for approval.
  • The SAGNC reviews all documentation before recommending the change to the Minister.
  • The Minister, upon reviewing recommendations, decides to approve or deny the name change.

Public Participation:

  • Following the Minister’s decision, the name change is gazetted for public information.
  • A 30-day window is provided for objections to be submitted in writing.
  • The Minister considers objections and communicates decisions to objectors, concluding the process.

Reflections on South African Identity

These name changes symbolize a nation’s quest to reimagine its narrative, honor its diverse heritage, and foster a unified identity. They stand as testaments to the power of communal involvement in reshaping not just geographical labels, but also the cultural and historical fabric of South Africa.

In essence, these alterations serve as catalysts for conversations, reflections, and a shared vision of a South Africa that embraces its past while shaping a future anchored in inclusivity, representation, and unity.

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Miriam Matoma

Miriam is a freelance writer, she covers economics and government news for Rateweb. You can contact her on: Email: Twitter: @MatomaMiriam