Pretoria name change rethink

The Pretoria name-change issue is going back to the drawing board after Arts and Culture Minister Lulu Xingwana retracted the registration of the Tshwane municipal council as a geographical feature.

She said on Tuesday that the retraction after the printing of the notice in last Friday's Government Gazette was "so that more work can be done by officials on this matter".

Spokesman Mack Lewele said Xingwana sent 29 name changes for gazetting last week, among them the name Tshwane.

Lewele confirmed that when Deputy Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile cancelled a media briefing on the name changes on Thursday, Tshwane had already been sent for gazetting and it was too late to remove the name from Friday's Government Gazette.

He said Mashatile had raised a number of "internal issues" with officials, and this led to the decision to cancel a planned press conference at the last minute. He declined to say what the issues were.

"The deputy minister wanted to satisfy himself that all the processes had been followed and that there was proper motivation (on the Pretoria name change)," said Lewele.

Xingwana said the standardisation of geographical names in a democratic South Africa was part of the process of redressing the marginalisation of indigenous language, culture and heritage.

"It reclaims this wealth for the benefit of all, now and in the future. It is an exciting and dynamic process filled with opportunity for South Africans to enhance their understanding of themselves and their geographical places, and in this way, to celebrate common identity," said Xingwana.

Freedom Front Plus leader and Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Dr Pieter Mulder, said: "I thank the minister for the retraction of the notice. It gives all parties an opportunity to reach a compromise."

Mulder said he had held discussions with senior ANC members, and that he intended taking up the matter with President Jacob Zuma.

DA Gauteng North chairman Brandon Topham said they had noted Xingwana's retraction of the notice to change Pretoria's name to Tshwane.

He added it was still the department's intention to submit the name change but that the feeling among local communities was that the money needed to change the city's name could be spent on improved service delivery instead.

Topham said that when the decision to change the capital's name was taken, public participation had been minimal.

"We currently have a win-win situation, with the metro council named Tshwane and the city named Pretoria," he said.

The fight over the name change for Pretoria started in 2003, when the council approved the name change from Pretoria to Tshwane.

A research team headed by Professor Mzi Sirayi was commissioned by the municipality to look into the issue, and it reported at the time that "the prospect of renaming Pretoria is a controversial matter that requires careful research and consideration because it touches the life of our democracy - materially, symbolically and politically".

"The cost of changing Pretoria to Tshwane is estimated at more than R1 billion, which accounts for the opposition from many businesses.

"The municipality will therefore have to address this serious detractor from the name change to ensure that the economic viability of the metropolitan city is not undermined," the committee stated.

In October last year, Judge Legodi Phatudi granted the council permission to erect welcoming signage (with the wording "City of Tshwane/Fifa 2010 World Cup") at various gateways leading into and out of the city.

The municipality had approached the High Court, stating that the 2007 interim court order by Judge Bill Prinsloo referred only to signage bearing the name "Pretoria", "which has nothing to do with the signage promoting the 2010 World Cup as envisaged in the host city agreement (with Fifa)".

Meanwhile, executive mayor Dr Gwen Ramokgopa said at a media briefing at the Tshwane University of Technology on Tuesday that the name of Tshwane had been carefully and correctly legislated, beginning in 2000 with the inaugural committee responsible for the demarcation of the municipality.

sign up