By Sherlissa Peters

Two Pietermaritzburg landmark buildings were renamed in a moving ceremony this weekend as heroes of the past were honoured.

The launch, attended by stalwarts in the fight for democracy including Yunis Karrim, Yusuf Bhamjee, KwaZulu-Natal Finance Minister Zweli Mkhize and members of the Chetty and Nyembezi families, saw the former buildings 333 Church Street and Symonds Centre renamed the AS Chetty Building and the Professor Nyembezi Centre respectively.

Professor Sibusiso Nyembezi's brother, known to all as "Baba" Nyembezi, addressed the crowds in Zulu, saying that speaking about a Zulu man who lived for the Zulu people, in English, would be an injustice.

He said his brother was a man with strong convictions who believed in a great cause, and that was to fight for democracy.

"He had a passion for this country, and a passion for the people and he believed it was important to fight for this cause to improve the lives of the children of South Africa," he said. Nyembezi published a series of books in Zulu relating to the oppression of black people during the apartheid era.

Speaking on behalf of the Chetty family, Chetty's daughter, Kamy Chetty, said that this was an occasion to celebrate the lives of both Chetty and Nyembezi.

"We are so honoured that my father is being recognised in this way. It helps us, and the many generations to come, realise exactly what it was that people like him sacrificed for us," she said.

She said that this event co-incided with the 50th celebration of the Freedom Charter, which Chetty attended in Kliptown all those years ago. He later became deputy mayor of Umsunduzi.

"The struggle was his life, and he was committed to protecting and fighting for the rights of the people," she said.

Zweli Mkhize said residents of the city could walk around with pride, knowing that Pietermaritzburg has produced such incredible heroes of the struggle, who are being recognised for their efforts.

"The re-naming process runs across the entire spectrum, recognising stalwarts from all religious faiths and races. That is a great accomplishment for the city. This is a great start to making sense of this sometimes very confused country. This is the history we have come from, let us preserve and protect it," he said.

Mayor Hloni Zondi, before cutting the ribbons and officially opening the newly re-named buildings, said that the process of the re-naming was an initiative supported by all parties on the council.

"The courage and compassion of these freedom fighters cannot be applauded enough. Pietermaritzburg has always enjoyed great racial harmony between black and Indian South Africans. It fills my heart with great pride to honour these two gallant champions of justice in this way," Zondi said.

"These two individuals changed the political landscape of this city and we salute their courage and resoluteness."

The re-naming process of streets and other buildings in the city will intensify in the coming months, with Pietermaritzburg well on its way to becoming a city that reflects the true nature of its political history.