The name-change issue involving Pretoria could be resolved by the end of June after a final round of consultative meetings with all interested parties has been held and a recommendation has been made to Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile.
The consultations on whether “Pretoria” should become “Tshwane”, Mashatile said on Thursday, would take into account all views on the debate.
“My view is that we go with the sentiments of the majority,” he said at a workshop of the SA Geographical Names Council (SAGNC) at Emperor’s Palace.
He added that the debate about changing the name of Pretoria as a city had to start with the definition of what the capital city itself entailed. “Those concerned need to differentiate what the capital is – is it a suburb or a metro, and from there we can then allow… discussions to continue and find an amicable resolution,” he said.
The name change idea has been mired in controversy since the December 2000 amalgamation of municipalities within and outside the old Pretoria municipality into the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality. This left the city of Pretoria largely intact within this municipality, and the debate around the possible name change of the city of Pretoria has raged ever since.
Consultations with all interested parties were held over the matter, the chairman of the SAGNC, Richard Sizani, said. Over the years, the proposed name has evoked a strong negative reaction from some South Africans, including residents of the city and business people, who said they wouldn’t change their letterheads to say “Tshwane”, instead of “Pretoria”. The idea of road signs being changed was opposed – the whole process was said to be a waste of money.
Mashatile said: “We must dispel the myth that funds set aside for the standardisation of geographical names is money wasted. We must continue to make the point that the standardisation of geographical names is an integral part of nation building, promoting social cohesion and national healing,” he added.
Several interest groups formed a united front to oppose the name change with organisations, including AfriForum and the Freedom Front Plus, threatening to oppose it and take the matter to court if consultations were not satisfactory.
To this, the minister said on Thursday: “We must reiterate that the process of name standardisation is not an attempt to obliterate the history of any section of our society. Rather, it is a process to contribute towards building an inclusive society, rooted in the principles of equality, freedom and dignity for all.”
He said once the consultations were complete and the city was satisfied that all processes had been followed, the council would step in and if it was happy that due processes had been followed, it would make a recommendation to change the name to him. He would also, in turn, satisfy himself that everything had been done accordingly before he made his decision on whether to change the name or not.
He said the issue of name change wasn’t a phenomenon unique to SA, but an international process which saw several countries changing the names of cities and streets for various reasons.
Mashatile and his deputy, Joe Phaahla, said communications and marketing experts worked on ensuring the changes went on to maps and other documents, saying the arguments that name change could confuse visitors was far-fetched.
“These experts make sure the old ones are phased out and new ones entered into all recognised systems, but they also allow them to run together until audiences are ready for the change,” said Phaahla.