It's official: Pretoria keeps its name

By Bruce Venter Time of article published Feb 2, 2004

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Pretoria will always be Pretoria.

So says the Defence Minister and chairman of the African National Congress(ANC), Mosiuoa Lekota.

Lekota made his statement at the weekend when he paid a surprise visit to a Confederate Afrikaner Forum meeting held at the Ou Raadsaal.

The forum is a platform for people of Afrikaans heritage to address issues relating to their culture and position in South African society.

Lekota added that the ANC appreciates Afrikaans and Afrikaans place names, and sees them as part of South Africa's heritage.

Lekota said Tshwane was the name for the Metro district and did not apply to the city of Pretoria itself.

"Pretoria will stay Pretoria and is part of a greater area called Tshwane in which Pretoria is a city," he said.

Dr Dan Roodt of the Pro-Afrikaans Action Group (PRAAG) said the announcement came as a surprise.

"Relations between government and Afrikaners were becoming increasingly strained and Pretoria's proposed name change has further polarised our society," he said.

He added that the Afrikaans community must grasp the olive branch offered by the ANC.

"PRAAG thanks Minister Lekota for his contribution to the discussion on the role of the opposition... this speaks volumes on the importance government puts on meetings held by influential Afrikaners," Roodt said.

Tshwane executive mayor Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa said he could not comment on Minister Lekota's statement, as he was not present at the meeting.

"As far as I am concerned, the process to investigate the name change and its implications for the city's residents is still on course," he said.

PRAAG has called for the committee of academics set up by the mayor to investigate the proposal to be disbanded and its remaining funds returned to the Tshwane municipality.

William Baloyi, spokesperson for the mayor's office said: "The City Council has not yet reached a decision on the matter and the study into what impact a name change will have on residents is still under way."

He added that it was difficult to comment on Lekota's statement as it was not known in what context the statement was made.

Philip de Wet of the Democratic Alliance (DA) said Lekota's statement was good news for Pretoria residents.

"This statement is in contrast to the position held by the mayoral committee and has been made by a senior member of the ANC," he said.

De Wet added that the statement can be seen as being made on behalf of the ANC and that residents will welcome the news.

Pieter de Necker of the African Christian Democratic Party, (ACDP) said it was a positive step, but warned that only time will tell if Lekota's statement can be taken seriously.

"The government has heard the cries of the people of Pretoria and that of opposition parties," he said.

De Necker added that the ACDP was in the process of submitting another proposal regarding the city's possible name change.

The proposed name change has resulted in residents drawing up petitions and boycotting the payment of rates and taxes.

In a media statement by PRAAG, it has called on all residents who support the boycott to withdraw the boycott with immediate effect.

Louis van der Schyff of the Herstigte Nationale Party (HNP) was more hesitant in commenting on Lekota's statement.

"Although he (Lekota) promised the name of Pretoria will not change, there was insufficient time to discuss the matter fully with the minister," he said.

Van der Schyff added that the minister refused to be drawn into a debate regarding name changes that have already occurred in Limpopo.

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