Pretoria - Chinese legend and controversial freedom fighter Mao Tse Tung’s name was on Thursday added to the geographical names list for the city despite fierce objection that he was a dictator and had blood on his hands.
The ruling ANC, with a little help from minority parties such as the APC, used its majority to vote for the name, plus those of African football legends, statesmen and a South African academic.
These are Roger Milla and Kalusha Bwalya, Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere and Professor Sam Mokgokong. The names are for use by developers and communities and the list requires new entries from time to time.
The DA and Freedom Front Plus approved the other names, but vehemently opposed the addition of Mao, saying he was a dictator and killer and had no connection to the city and its image. The opposition party submitted that Mao (also known as Mao Zedong) was responsible for the death of 40 million to 70 million people. But the ANC argued he was never found guilty and was a revolutionary who contributed to South Africa’s relationship with China. Lucas Ngobeni, of the ANC, told council that if the name of Mao was to be removed from the list, so should those of Paul Kruger, Andries Pretorius and even Nelson Mandela.
In a heated debate, Tau Motau, of the DA, said it was a shame that grown men and women were refusing to acknowledge the truth to nurse their feelings of sentimentality towards the historical figure from their childhood. Motau said Mao stood out as the worst perpetrator of the worst genocide in history.
“He supported the liberation of our country minimally by training Umkhonto we Sizwe cadres, occasionally donating money and weaponry, a bursary here and there, and the regular political rhetoric. But so did Libyan presidents, Muammar Gaddafi and others,” he said. “Mao has no special reason to stand out, except for murdering millions.”
Doris Mnguni, also of the DA, told council that to amend and make reparation for wrongs, council should not include names such as those of the Chinese leader for street names.
Her colleague, Elmarie Lind, said Mao was as evil as Hitler and Stalin and naming streets or public buildings after him would be as bad as names such as Barend Strydom, Eugene de Koch and Clive Derby Lewis.
Ben Erasmus of the Freedom Front Plus submitted that Mao was against the vision of the city and should not be honoured.
However, the ANC hit back and vowed to fight for the name. Ngobeni said the ideologies of Mao helped to overcome apartheid, and if he was a traitor, so was Mandela who was classified as a terrorist by the apartheid regime.
Milla is a retired Cameroonian striker who played in three Fifa World Cup finals for his country. He is best remembered for his trademark goal celebration of running to the corner flag and performing a dance, and was one of the first African players to be a major star internationally.
Bwalya played for and later coached the Zambian national team and is his country’s most capped player and all-time top goal scorer.
Nyerere is a former Tanzanian president who denounced the apartheid policies and provided a haven for South Africans fleeing political persecution.
Kaunda served as president of Zambia from 1964 to 1991.
Nkrumah, past leader of Ghana and its predecessor Gold Coast, was the founding member of the Organisation of African Unity and won the Lenin Peace Prize in 1983.
Mokgokong’s career highlights include the separation of four sets of craniopagus Siamese twins.