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Reconciliation in SA not done until we remove all apartheid names on streets and towns, Kenny Kunene insists

Bust shot of a man in black jacket

City of Joburg’s MMC for Transport, Kenny Kunene. File Picture: Boxer Ngwenya

Published Sep 27, 2023


City of Johannesburg's Transport MMC, Kenny Kunene says no monetary value can hamper the process of healing the pain caused by apartheid among South Africans, and everything must be done to remove the painful reminders.

On Tuesday, IOL reported that Johannesburg Mayor, Kabelo Gwamanda, officiated at the unveiling event for the Winnie Mandela Drive, formerly known as William Nicol Drive.

Public sentiment has been divided over the grand renaming of the popular Sandton road, especially after it emerged that the financially-struggling City of Johannesburg had spent R250,000 on the renaming project of William Nicol Drive.

Speaking to broadcaster, Newzroom Afrika on Wednesday morning, Kunene said having apartheid-era names on public structures in the democratic South Africa was traumatic for former political activists like himself.

Johannesburg's William Nicol Drive was officially renamed Winnie Mandela Drive on Tuesday morning in Sandton. Picture: Kamogelo Moichela/ IOL

“Every day of my life, being a former political activist myself in the 80s … the first time I was arrested for political reasons, I was 14 years (old). When I was 15, I was sent to prison for six months during the state of emergency with many other political activists,” said Kunene.

“I became politically conscious at an early age. Every time I drive on Hendrik Verwoerd (road), those memories come back. Every time I drive on Louis Botha, Jan Smuts, every time I see Jan van Riebeeck, when I see a town named Hertzogville, Bronkhorstspruit named after General Bronkhorst who killed our people in that area so you cannot put monetary value to reconciliation.

“Reconciliation was not fully done. It is not a one-way street. For us to be able to deal with the pain of apartheid, we must remove all the names of apartheid architects, and those who implemented apartheid. Those who murdered our people. As the City of Johannesburg, we have started here and we have implemented this motion (on Winnie Mandela Drive) rightly so,” said Kunene.

He highlighted that it is wrong for the celebrated game reserve, the Kruger National Park to continue carrying apartheid-linked names.

“We must change that. When we get into the national Parliament, we are going to change that. You have a very beautiful tunnel in Limpopo, named after Hendrik Verwoerd. It can’t be. It is wrong. We are the only country in the world that celebrates its oppressors through the naming of streets, towns and national key points. I am going to change that and I am starting in the City of Johannesburg.

“I want to heal the wounds of our people. Louis Botha is next. As the Patriotic Alliance we will be sponsoring a motion to change Louis Botha (Avenue), Jan Smuts is next.”

Johannesburg's William Nicol Drive was officially renamed Winnie Mandela Drive on Tuesday morning in Sandton.

The William Nicol Drive, which stretched from Sandton to Diepsloot, is a key road cutting through Hyde Park, Bryanston, Fourways and Dainfern. It is one of Joburg's busiest roads, often being heard in radio traffic bulletins during peak morning and afternoon traffic.

According to the Heritage Portal, the road was named after William Nicol, who was a former administrator of the Transvaal government at the time of construction.

Plans around the road begun around 1947, and it was first known as Nicol Drive, with its real name being P79/1.

Last year, the Saturday Star said the William Nicol was labelled the most treacherous road in Joburg after a staggering 155 potholes were reported on the road.