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Street renaming raises KZN historian's ire

Published Apr 27, 2007


To rename Kingsway in Amanzimtoti after a "thug who blew innocent civilians to pieces in a shopping centre is disgusting and distasteful," city manager Dr Michael Sutcliffe has been told in a letter.

And it "smacks of early South American Banana Republicanism", according to local military expert Ken Gillings, who has joined the many objectors lodging complaints about the proposed new street name changes.

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Renaming Kingsway - the longest road in Amanzimtoti, Warner Beach and Athlone Park - after "a murderer" (Andrew Zondo, who bombed Sanlam Centre shopping centre) "will make us the laughing stock of the civilised world and destroy that spirit of reconciliation former president Nelson Mandela instilled in us after the democratic elections of l994", he wrote.

Lodging his "strong objection" to the renaming of Kingsway and three other roads, he points out that his views are supported by seven other personalities, linked to military units and the South African Military History Society, as well as a prominent historian.

Referring to Edwin Swales VC Drive (to become Solomon Mahlangu Drive under the proposals), Gillings, an internationally-known military historian and KZN battlefield guide, said Swales, VC, was one of Durban's heroes who was awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery during World War 2.

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"To rename Edwin Swales VC Drive will be erasing the remarkable bravery of one of eThekwini's greatest servicemen."

As for NMR Avenue (Masabalala Yengwa Avenue), Gillings points out that this was named after one of South Africa's oldest regiments, which is still in existence and reflects the demographics of the new millennium.

"It should be borne in mind that this regiment fought heroically against Adolf Hitler's Nazis and many of its members made the supreme sacrifice. To rename NMR Avenue would be a slap in the face to the thousands of soldiers who went to war to oppose the scourge of Nazism."

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The municipality should be proud of the regiment's achievement and not obliterate its name from Durban, he said.

He argues that Smith Street (to become either Anton Lembede or Moses Mabhida Street), which was named after Captain Thomas Charlton Smith, should be retained.

Supporting his letter are: Colonel Pat Acutt, the Senior Staff Officer of the KZN Reserve Forces of the South African National Defence Force; Bill Brady, the current chairman of the KZN branch of the South African Military History Society; Flip Hoorweg, national chairperson of the Society; Paul Kilmartin, a prominent KZN military historian and leading authority on Major Edwin Swales, VC; Ron Coppin, chairman of the Board of Management of Natal Mounted Rifles (NMR), Lt-Col Mike Rowe, Commanding Officer of the NMR, and W01 Bobby Freeman, the Regimental Sergeant Major of the NMR.

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Acutt said while he had signed the SANDF code of conduct not advance or harm the interests of any political party, many people were looking to him to make a statement on the renaming of NMR Avenue.

He was the past OC of the Regiment, which had been granted the freedom of the city.

"It's to the shame of the city council that it doesn't remember people who genuinely died in the cause of freedom."

The proposed name change would honour a single person who had never laid down his life for his cause, which is what everyone had pledged to do in the SANDF.

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