Gayton McKenzie, leader of Patriotic Alliance (PA) has slammed his party’s attempts to change the name of Beaufort West to Dubai West.
Last month, then Beaufort West mayor, Ashley Saul, a senior member of the PA tabled a a resolution titled, “Beaufort West Turnaround Triple R Strategy” in the town’s council that among others, had proposed to change the town’s name to Dubai West - in an apparent nod to McKenzie’s grand plan for the sleepy Karoo town to become the next Dubai.
According to media reports Saul’s reasoning for the name change was for the town to become more inclusive of the people who live in it where the main languages are Afrikaans and isiXhosa.
The decision caused an outcry and a petition was started to halt any attempts to change the town’s name to Dubai West.
Taking to social media, McKenzie has now apologised to the people of Beaufort West.
“I want to tell you that it was never our intention to change the name of Beaufort West,” McKenzie said.
“Number one it was never discussed that we're going to change the name of Beaufort West. Number two, I personally like the name and it was never a party decision to change the name of Beaufort West,” he said.
The PA leader said that allegations that the name change had come from him was untrue.
“We’ve never given anybody instruction to change the name. Whoever came up with it, probably just put it out there as a suggestion. The media ran with it, but still, you know, one mistake in the PA is all our mistakes. So I want to just apologise and put it out there,” McKenzie said.
He said that as leaders they should apologise instead of justifying the decision.
“We have no right to come and change a town's name without speaking to the people of the town. So I'd like to apologise profusely to the people that are offended by this and you're rightly offended by that… I will even vote against the name change of Beaufort West. I was there and I love that name,” he added.
McKenzie added: “It is wrong to just come in and say that Beaufort West must become Dubai West… We spoke to our councillors and we let them know that this will not be allowed in the PA”.
Last week, Sauls resigned as mayor and Ebenezer Botha, another PA member was sworn in as the new mayor.
It was unclear if Sauls had resigned over the decision to change the name of Beaufort West.
McKenzie was mayor of Beaufort West for a year between 2022 and 2023 and promised to turn the town into the “Dubai in the Central Karoo” by attracting investment and winning the hearts and minds of the town’s poor by eradicating the bucket toilet system and fixing potholes.
He however left office under a cloud with opposition parties accusing him of malfeasance.