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By the end of 2012 the name of the city will have officially been changed from Pretoria to Tshwane and about 21 street names will have been replaced with the names of Struggle heroes, regardless of any opposition to this move.
That is if Tshwane mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa has his way.
Ramokgopa launched a verbal attack on Monday on people and organisations opposing the renaming of the city and its streets, saying the process would go ahead even if he was taken to the Constitutional Court.
He was speaking at the unveiling of the 13 names of victims of the 1985 Mamelodi Massacre which have been inscribed on the Wall of Names at Freedom Park.
Ramokgopa said he did not care what the media said about the costs related to the name changes as no amount of money was too much for “recording history correctly”.
“When we say we want to change the name of the city to Tshwane and replace the street names with names of our struggle heroes, they talk about how much it costs,” he said.
“We will spend that money to make sure that our history is recorded correctly. They can write whatever they want. It is surprising that some of our own people are actually the ones writing these things.
“We are going to be resolute and stubborn in ensuring that our history is recorded correctly because our brave heroes paid the ultimate price.”
Ramokgopa’s comments are likely to fuel the controversy over the renaming of the capital city and its streets.
The municipality’s public participation hearings into the renaming of streets took place in 2009, with incidents of racial violence at some of the venues.
A meeting at the Pretoria North Town Hall was halted after police used pepper spray to defuse racial violence that erupted.
The municipality has also faced battles in court with opposition party Freedom Front Plus and civil rights group AfriForum, which are opposed to the renaming of the capital and its streets.
This led to the municipality using Tshwane and Pretoria as its official names during last year’s World Cup.
Ramokgopa said some of the streets would be named after the people who died in the 1985 Mamelodi massacre. Thirteen people died and many others were injured.
The mayor singled out Church Street as one of the names that must go. He said the municipality would build statues of liberation heroes that would be bigger than the statues now seen in the city.
“How can you have the longest street in this city named Church Street when you have the likes of Solomon Mahlangu and Ting-Ting Masango that you can name these streets after?
“How can you even have such a short street named after Nelson Mandela (referring to Nelson Mandela Drive)? That is actually showing disrespect for Nelson Mandela,” Ramokgopa said to loud cheers from his audience.
He said he had singled out Church Street as it was the longest street in the city, stretching from Brits to Bronkhorstpruit.
“Church Street is the longest street in this area and it must receive priority because of its volume and exposure,” he said.
Ramokgopa said the issue was on Minister of Arts and Culture Paul Mashatile’s desk and the municipality was engaging with him about finalising the name change.
He said the municipality would follow all due processes through the council to ensure the street name changes were finalised before end of the next year.
“As the leadership in this city we are going to make sure that all spaces and symbols in this city will be transformed,” he said.
FF+ councillor Conrad Beyers on Monday said his party would tackle Ramokgopa head-on regarding the renaming of the city.
According to Beyers, Ramokgopa was backtracking on the commitment he made when he got into office that he would not be focusing on emotional issues but on service delivery.
“As FF+ we are disappointed by the mayor’s new position as we believed that he would be a different mayor from his predecessor,” he said.
“It is clear he cannot handle criticism about service delivery and now he is focusing on emotional issues to win back support within his own party. We believe there is a possibility for a political solution to the issue of name changes, but if this is the approach he is taking, then we will go back to the political trenches to fight him.”
AfriForum spokesman Cornelius Jansen van Rensburg said the rights group would resist all attempts to change Pretoria’s name to Tshwane or the renaming of streets.
He challenged the mayor to create new streets and areas in the city that he could name after liberation heroes, instead of trying to rename existing streets.
“Changing street names will not address the challenges faced by the people of this city,” Van Rensburg said.
“He should be focusing on the problems of the city like the growing billing issues. He should not be dividing people by focusing on issues that are not the immediate challenge of people in this city.”
The names of those inscribed on the Wall of Names are Paulus Mavimbela, Matengu Mlombo, SJ Ngwantle, Sam Nkonyane, Trocia Ndlovu, Jacob Masanabo, Mirriam Mello, Moses Motsei, Baphelile Msiza, Jacob Dipuo Songo, Sarah Teffo, Thoko Malaza and Salome Mabena.
They died in 1985 when police opened fire on people protesting about the payment of rent and the presence of soldiers in Mamelodi, among other things. - Pretoria News