Signs of the times

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iol travel dec 20 pretoria

INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

Krugar Museum at Helen Joseph (Church) street. Picture: Oupa Mokoena

Pretoria is the city where the streets have two names. A protracted battle between two opposing camps – one fighting to retain the status quo while the other advocates for wholesale changes – dragged through the courts but failed to break the deadlock after years of wrangling.

The result is that streets of the capital are adorned with two signs.

This development followed a recent announcement by the city saying it had canvassed opinions widely enough and would now go ahead and give the capital “a more representative version of our history”.

That move notwithstanding, an appeal ruling is pending following an application by the opposing camp that argued there were flaws in the consultation process leading up to the renaming.

The city fathers have gone ahead with the provisional renaming regardless, while the old names appear alongside the new ones.

They have explained that this will be a good way of familiarising residents with the new names while slowly phasing out the old ones.

Comments, meanwhile, continue to pour in to newspaper letters pages from concerned readers.

Among the

changes, Vermeulen Street now reappears as Madiba, Nelson Mandela’s clan name. Pretoria already has Nelson Mandela Drive and what this shows is South Africans’ obsessions with their most famous son.

After a few days of driving around town, I began to notice a pattern. Most of the renamed streets are somehow associated with the people they honour.

Madiba Street, for example, takes you straight to the Union Buildings.

E’skia Mphahlele Road bypasses his old home in Marabastad, while Helen Joseph (formerly Church) Street will also lead you to the Union Buildings.

But by the time you get to the Union Buildings, the street will be known by a different name – Stanza Bobape.

It used to be easy for me to direct someone to Pretoria using Church Street as a pivotal reference. The road was previously the city’s longest and ran from west to east, passing through the centre of the city. In its new guise it appears as four different streets – Elias Motsoaledi, WF Nkomo, Helen Joseph and Stanza Bopape.

Pretoria is not the only city to have been engulfed in a renaming storm. In Durban, it took the intervention of the Supreme Court of Appeal to resolve the furore between feuding political parties.

In the end, names such as Dr AB Xuma (formerly Commercial Road) and Margaret Mncadi (previously Victoria Embankment) were given the green light only after a court ruling.

In Cape Town, public comment has been invited into more than 30 renaming proposals.

But for anyone eager to find which city enjoys the lion’s share of attention because of its street renaming efforts, you can’t beat Pretoria/Tshwane.

You can in the meantime continue to call the capital what you will as there has not been a conclusive ruling on that either. - Sunday Independent

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