UCT vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng said the naming of places and spaces across the campuses was an opportunity to think deeply about who and what the university represents. Photo: Ross Jansen/African news AGency (ANA) Archives
UCT vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng said the naming of places and spaces across the campuses was an opportunity to think deeply about who and what the university represents. Photo: Ross Jansen/African news AGency (ANA) Archives

UCT forges ahead with name changes to buildings, and here's how the university wants your help

By Sisonke Mlamla Time of article published Nov 19, 2021

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Cape Town - The University of Cape Town (UCT) is still forging ahead with changing the names of its remaining buildings and spaces, and has asked the public to suggest name changes.

The Naming of Buildings Committee (NoBC) at UCT invited the public to send their proposals for two additional spaces, including the steps and plaza in front of Sarah Baartman Hall (currently Jameson Plaza).

That part of the campus has been a gathering place for the university community for generations – from protests to graduation ceremonies, to social gatherings, festivals and meeting up with friends.

Another space included the plinth on Madiba Circle (previously the location of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes). That commanding location foregrounds Sarah Baartman Hall, the plaza and steps and the two residence buildings.

UCT vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng said the naming of places and spaces across the campuses was an opportunity to think deeply about who and what the university represents.

Phakeng said in 2018 they renamed Jameson Hall the Sarah Baartman Hall. That was a moment in which the university could recognise the multifaceted struggles and resilience of South African women.

In June, council deliberated and approved a recommendation of the NoBC to change the name of Smuts Hall, the student residence on the upper campus, and decided that in the interim the name Upper Campus Residence would be used until such time that the process of determining a new name was formally concluded.

“I now invite you to participate in the process of renaming this residence, along with two other spaces which are located at the heart of upper campus,” said Phakeng.

She said all proposals they received would be considered by the committee. In addition to making recommendations to council about the naming or renaming of any building, space, room or lecture theatre on campus, the NoBC maintained a register of the names of buildings and spaces and was responsible for promoting awareness of the reasons behind the names.

UCT Democratic Alliance Students Organisation (Daso) member Zukile Ntentema said the renaming of the buildings and spaces should not be a priority at this point.

Ntentema said the university must focus more on finding solutions to issues like gender-based violence.

“We must be very careful on this renaming issue, because it can be easily politicised, and we will be monitoring and evaluating all the processes and the proposed names.”

Phakeng said the naming of places and spaces at UCT is an important process, which they do not take lightly.

“These names need to reflect the values of the many different groups that make up the UCT community. Renaming buildings and places allows us an opportunity to respond to both the past and the future of UCT, and to reflect and honour our diversity and inclusivity,” she said.

UCT student representative council (SRC) chairperson Mila Zibi commended the “incredible” work the NoBC had been doing since last year, and said that it added significantly towards the de-colonial agenda.

“The plinth must be renamed as a disassociation from any prior colonial figures,” said Zibi.

Proposals, which opened on Wednesday, can be submitted to the NoBC until December 6. Following that, the NoBC will recommend new names to council.

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