South Africa: what's in a name?

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Jun 13, 2017

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Cape Town - South Africa wouldn't be the first African country to change its name after the fall of colonial rule.

A number of countries on the continent changed their names after gaining independence.

South Africa only became recognised as such in 1961 after the Union of South Africa adopted a new constitution and became the Republic of South Africa.

The Union was comprised of the Cape of Good Hope Province (Cape Province; previously Cape Colony), Natal Province (Natal Colony), the Orange Free State Province (Oranje Vrij Staat/Orange River Colony) and the Transvaal Province (Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek/Transvaal Colony), along with the other territories of Transkei and Ciskei.

South Africa's most intimate neighbour, Lesotho, chose its name in 1966 when it gained independence from the British under whose rule it was known as Basutoland.

To South Africa's north-west, Namibia was once known as South West Africa when it was under German rule until 1915.

To the country's north-east, Zimbabwe and Zambia were known as Southern and Northern Rhodesia after Cecil Rhodes, British imperialist and former prime minister of the Cape Colony.

Mozambique was once called Portuguese East Africa, or the Overseas Province of Mozambique, under Portugal's rule. When it gained independence in 1975 after four centuries of Portuguese rule, it banished all colonial statues and changed all the colonial street names in its capital, Maputo.

Bechuanaland, a protectorate of the British empire, gained independence in 1966 and changed its name to Botswana.

A few formerly colonised countries and their new names. Graphic: Devon Daniels/ANA Pictures

Other formerly colonised countries include Mauritania, The Gambia, Senegal, Niger, Mali, Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Benin – formerly known as French West Africa; and Burundi, Rwanda, and Tanzania – formerly part of German East Africa.

Changing one's name is a costly affair too – between 2012 and 2016, the Czech Republic spent $42m (just over half a billion rand) on a tourism branding campaign to market itself, months before changing its official English name to Czechia.

So, we asked you...

What do you think? Should South Africa be renamed Azania? https://t.co/6AlWROAliU

via @IOL pic.twitter.com/7jJgYF8P5i

— Cape Argus (@TheCapeArgus) June 13, 2017

And this is what you had to say...

Should South Africa be renamed?

— Cape Argus (@TheCapeArgus) June 13, 2017

Cape Argus

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