Jakes Gerwel - Photo: Independent Newspapers

Cape Town - A major Cape Town road is on Sunday officially being renamed after anti-apartheid activist and academic Jakes Gerwel.

At noon, Mayor Patricia de Lille is hosting a ceremony to change the name of Vanguard Drive – which runs from Acacia Park near the N1 all the way to Mitchells Plain – to Jakes Gerwel Drive.

De Lille said renaming the road would honour Gerwel’s memory and commemorate his “great contribution to our democracy”.

The decision to name a major city road after Gerwel met with widespread praise when it was announced early last year.

Not so this month’s announcement that the city is looking to rename Table Bay Boulevard after the last apartheid president, FW de Klerk, a move which has been criticised by the ANC and Cosatu.

Cosatu’s Western Cape provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich termed it “entirely inappropriate”, while national ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa told journalists De Klerk was “not a messiah”.

The city, however, said the proposal, part of an initiative that has seen several streets renamed in recent years, had “received overwhelming support during a comprehensive and city-wide public participation process”.

Gerwel, regarded as one of the country’s leading intellectuals, died on November 28, 2012, at the age of 66 following triple bypass surgery.

He was a close friend and confidant of Nelson Mandela, serving as the director-general in the Presidency during Mandela’s term in office.

Before joining the Presidency, he was rector and vice-chancellor of the University of the Western Cape (UWC).

In later life he became the chancellor of Rhodes University and served on numerous boards.

At a memorial event at UWC days after his death, then-minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel read a message by Nelson Mandela and his wife Graça Machel about their relationship with Gerwel.

“Jakes was part of our everyday lives for 18 years. He was a confidant, a son and family member to all of us. His wisdom and leadership will be sorely missed. He touched many lives.”

After his death, the Mandela Rhodes Foundation approached the city with the wish to pay tribute to his legacy.

In March last year, following a public participation process, the city’s naming committee announced that Vanguard Drive would bear Gerwel’s name.

Weekend Argus