The renaming of Cape Town International Airport has struck many such a chord, becoming a powder keg that threatens to tear asunder the threadbare fabric of the Mother City’s unity. Picture: Bruce Sutherland, City of Cape Town.
‘WHAT’S in a name?” Juliet muses after learning about the familial ties of the object of her desire, for surely the name of a thing does not determine its function.

But, as with the generations-long fictitious feud between the Montagues and the Capulets, a name has the ability to be deeply divisive, inciteful even, if it manages to offend or strike emotive chords.

The renaming of Cape Town International Airport has struck many such a chord, becoming a powder keg that threatens to tear asunder the threadbare fabric of the Mother City’s unity. Already at the recent public meeting to discuss and submit possible names, rival groups nigh came to blows as they tried to have their names heard louder and clearer than the others.

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Winnie Madikizela-Mandela International, Robert Sobukwe International, Steve Biko International, Krotoa International - just some of the names now submitted to the South African Geographical Naming Council for a thorough check, before the list is then handed to Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa to be gazetted. Thereafter, there is another 30-day period for public opposition and comment, so there’s still time to agree or disagree with whatever names get put forward.

One thing is certain: the name will change. But is this the best thing for Cape Town, and to a greater degree, South Africa?

Already the city, divided along racial, economic, and political lines, burns with protests over service delivery, housing opportunities, gentrification and exclusion.

The renaming of the airport stands to divide our people even further.

Not only are some of the suggested names being contested, but the costs associated with such a change have also raised the hackles of many.

R20 million is nothing to be sniffed at, while hundreds of people protest for basic human rights like clean running water, shelter, and security. The question has also been raised: why does the name have to change at all?

It is an opportunity to show meaningful change is possible, a chance to unite our divided communities often separated by nothing more than a few metres of asphalt, a chance to celebrate an icon dear to us all. The name will change, and we implore those in power to choose a new name wisely.

@TheCapeArgus

Cape Argus