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'Time for Union Buildings to be renamed'

Published Oct 30, 2006


The ANC Youth League (ANCYL) would like to see the Union Buildings renamed after an anti-apartheid activist, possibly Chris Hani.

The call to rename the historic government headquarters in Pretoria was made by ANCYL president Fikile Mbalula at a meeting in Klerksdorp at the weekend following the official renaming of Johannesburg International Airport to OR Tambo International on Friday.

"Progress cannot be expected until the Union Buildings is renamed after important people (who fought in the struggle). There is nothing important about the Union Buildings but it was named (as such) as a symbol of oppression of our people," Mbalula said.

Mbalula said at the weekend "everything named by the apartheid government must be replaced".

He said the name-changing process formed part of the youth's struggle, "even if it meant that every town and street named after people representing apartheid had to be changed".

Confirming the call on Monday, ANCYL spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said there were many people the famous building could honour. But top of the list was Hani, the SA Communist Party leader who was assassinated in 1993.

"It's time for the Union Buildings to be renamed after a struggle veteran. The struggle produced a host of leaders ... who deserve to have their names given to the buildings," Mbalula said this morning, confirming the proposal

Sandile Memela, spokesperson for the department of arts and culture, which is ultimately responsible for name changes, said it was encouraging to see the youth get involved in the name change debate.

The name of a place was "an outward expression of the psychological, cultural and political re-awakening of people to engage in complex issues", Memela said.

But the Democratic Alliance (DA) has objected to the proposed name change, saying that unification would never be achieved if the ruling party insisted on riding roughshod over the cultures and heritage of other South Africans.

DA MP Desiree van der Walt said the Union Buildings was not a symbol of apartheid but a symbol of South Africa, made even more so by the recent celebrations commemorating the 1956 Women's March to the buildings in protest against pass laws.

Corne Mullder of the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) said: "They can change every name in South Africa, but it won't change the fact that the government has failed to provide services or curb crime".

- The Union Buildings was designed by Sir Herbert Baker. Its name comes from the time of the Union of South Africa. It houses government offices, including that of the President in the West Wing.

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