“We are no longer subjects of the Queen of Britain.”
These were the words of Buffalo City Metro mayor Xola Pakati when he urged the council to approve a new geographical name change committee as a matter of urgency, so the names East London, King William’s Town and East London’s main and busy street, Oxford Street, can be officially changed.
Motivating for the committee to be established, Pakati said “the geographical name change means restoring the original names of some of the areas within our jurisdiction”.
“For instance, we are here in East London and King William’s Town and we are no longer subjects of the the queen of Britain and what we have here is the colonial era names of our areas.
“So there has to be a change. For instance, our main street here is Oxford, like Oxford Street in London … so this is what we seek to address. We ask the geographical names to change,” he said.
Pakati said the geographical names in BCM should reflect the “rich and diverse culture, natural resources, religious, ethnic and historical heritage of the area”.
This forms part of a national programme aimed at transforming the geographical naming landscape in the country.
But this is not the first time that such a committee has been established in the metro. Previously councillor Pumla Nazo-Makatala was appointed to chair the committee but had no successes in changing the names in BCM.
Pakati has once again appointed Nazo-Makatala to lead the new committee which also includes some previous members – Chief Phakamile Makinana, Lukhanyo Sigonyela, Mcebisi Blaai, Lungelo Dwaba and Professor Nomsa Satyo.
The project will be implemented by the national Department of Tourism, Arts and Culture and Heritage working closely with the provincial department of sport, recreation, arts and culture.
Although the move was accepted and supported by some ANC councillors, the EFF and ACDP, there were other ANC councillors and the DA who wanted the report to be withdrawn from the agenda arguing that it was not an urgent matter as Pakati had tabled it as an exigency item.
Backing Pakati, EFF councillor Thembinkosi Apleni said: “I see no problem [changing some names]. In fact, this has been long overdue. Our children are using names they don’t even know, so it’s very important. My son just asked me recently what is King William’s Town. I am very thankful for this initiative.”
He said heroes, such as PAC founding president Robert Sobukwe’s name, should be considered among the new names.
ACDP councillor Luke Quse said: “This is a positive move and we support it and they [the committee] have to start working, so we can see the results.”
However, ward 25 ANC councillor Crosby Kolela was concerned that the item had not been distributed to councillors on time.
“These are not exigency items. Why are new reports always slipped in at this council? Why are we not given time to interrogate these reports? I don’t have a problem with the principle, but I’m having a problem with every time that we come to this council, we are getting new reports which we never interrogated,” he said.
Councillors usually get the reports to be tabled in council seven days before the meeting.
“I am sick and tired of these reports that come here at the 11th hour because I have a responsibility to apply my mind to each and every report. I don’t want to be dragged into any particular resolution which is not informed by my input as an individual. You are compromising us as councillors,” Kolela charged.
DA councillor Terence Fritz asked for the item to be deferred to another meeting.
“We haven’t discussed this and this is a huge issue because as you know, name changes are always accompanied by money. It’s not something that won’t cost the municipality anything.
“Also, there are areas that don’t have names for streets. We need to give those streets names instead of changing the names that are already there. I fully agree that we take this report back and apply our minds,” Fritz said.
However council speaker Alfred Mtsi and Pakati said that was not possible as the item had been adopted as part of the agenda with other exigency items.
Deputy mayor Zoliswa Matana, council chief whip Mzwandile Vaaiboom and councillor Amanda Mnyute urged the council to approve the committee despite the complaints on the floor.
Yesterday, Nazo-Makatala said her committee had already begun its work. She said she would meet with Mtsi today before the city embarks on public hearings.
“As the ANC we are still firm in our view that the municipality should be named after Dr WB Rubusana. That has not changed,” said Nazo-Makatala. — firstname.lastname@example.org