Picture: Neil Baynes

Cape Town - Grahamstown, has officially been renamed to Makhanda, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa announced on Tuesday. 

"From today, it's Makhanda," declared Mthethwa on SABC on Tuesday night.

There were more than 300 objections to the name change, but the minister said "we followed the letter of the law".

In a statement, Mthethwa explained why the name change had to happen and why the name of Makhanda was chosen.

"The town formerly known as 'Grahamstown' is named after Lieutenant Colonel John Graham whose role in the Frontier Wars was to exercise the "maximum degree of terror" on the Xhosa natives and who was and is still infamous for his methods to "break the back of the native" by employing the most savage means imaginable including liberally employing the "scorched earth policy" against those he conquered - burning their homes, their crops, their livestock and homes, before murdering the warriors he met in battle, and butchering even women and children in a mass extermination of a people - whose descendants can still be found in the area. 

"The name of John Graham is one that evokes unimaginable pain," Mthethwa said.

"What South Africans ought to know, is that the name change of the town to Makhanda is the fulfilling of the prophecy of 'Ukubuya kuka Nxele (the return of Nxele'). Makhanda was a warrior, war doctor, philosopher and prophet whose heroics in the Frontier Wars included an attack on a British garrison at the locality. 

"Makhanda ka Nxele was imprisoned in (and would later die while escaping from) Robben Island a few years shy of some 100 years before the founding fathers of South Africa's liberation including Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Andrew Mlangeni, Elias Motsoaledi, Robert Sobukwe and many gallant and honourable fighters in the struggle for liberation were imprisoned there. 

"The renaming of this town will ensure that Makhanda ka Nxele's memory is immortalised, and rightfully so," said Mthethwa.

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