Subject to the completion of processes and further consultations, Pretoria will be renamed Tshwane – and this is a foregone conclusion.
The declaration follows reports from various news outlets emanating from a statement by civil rights organisation AfriForum, indicating the City of Tshwane has bowed to public pressure by putting the renaming of the capital on hold until after next year’s elections.
AfriForum leader Kalie Kriel told the Pretoria News on Monday the statement, first published on the organisation’s website, was based on newspaper reports published last week.
But City of Tshwane spokesman Blessing Manale blasted AfriForum’s utterances as “mischievous and self-misleading”. Manale said the matter would not be shielded from public discourse and national dialogue.
AfriForum ran an SMS campaign for the retention of the name Pretoria for the capital, drawing about 160 000 responses. However, Manale said this was a “swart gevaar” drive targeting emotions, cultural insecurity and white Afrikaners’ fears.
It could not be seen as an objective measure of the view of South Africans on the name of the capital.
“AfriForum opted to reincarnate an old battle,” he said.
Manale said the decision to change the city’s name was informed not only by several public participation processes, but the substance of those submissions and the overall national development agenda.
But AfriForum disputed this, and Kriel said there was proof that at least 81 percent of participants objected to the city name change during the last round of public participation.
Manale said: “The naming process is aimed at building social cohesion, redress of the cultural identity of the city and the promotion of diversity.”
As far as the city was concerned, the process followed was not in contravention of the National Geographical Names policy guidelines, he said.
“We have a strong legal case and remedies. Until such are exhausted, AfriForum can continue to wish for a return to past ideas we are certain we will defeat in the domain of public engagement with all South Africans.”
Consultations on the name change were scheduled for October and November but were postponed.
This was done, he said, to finalise a comprehensive package report to the Ministry of Arts and Culture and the Presidency, to determine the format of a questionnaire, administrative matters and the need for reasonable notice to citizens on how to finalise the matter with a sufficient national and city-wide consensus.
“We would not like to prejudice South Africa’s social or economic situation as a result of the name change or the retention of the old name,” Manale said.
The public hearings will now be scheduled in the first half of next year to further discuss with immediate stakeholders the future name of the city and the implications of such a move, including those who use Pretoria as part of their registered names.
The city said it would approach all political parties represented in the municipality, including organisations such as AfriForum, and universities based in the capital to ascertain broader concerns relating to the impact of implementation and designation of the Tshwane name in the various spheres of their influence.
Manale added: “The name change and finalisation of the process is a foregone conclusion, as the name of South Africa’s capital should reflect the present and future, where everyone is proud to be associated with its current identity while preserving and appreciating its culture and past heritage. We call on AfriForum to abandon its divisive campaign and support us as we build a new capital for South Africa. As we approach the 20th anniversary of our democracy, we need to reaffirm that South Africa can only be united when every citizen is proud to be associated with its names, monuments, history and heroes.”
Meanwhile, Kriel said AfriForum was still adamant there was place for both names, Pretoria and Tshwane, in the capital.
AfriForum’s legal team was ready to take the case to court should the government decide to change the name, irrespective of whether this was before or after the election.
At its meeting of March 7, 2005, the city council resolved to formally register Tshwane as a geographical feature on the database of the South African Geographical Names Council.