CIVIL rights initiative AfriForum has described the Tshwane Metro Council’s interim decision to have old and new street names on name boards as “wasteful expenditure”.

The organisation, which has turned to the Pretoria High Court seeking an order to stop the municipality from continuing with its street name change process, also stated that the move would confuse residents.

AfriForum has cited the municipality, Gauteng’s MEC for local government, the minister of arts and culture and the minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs in the application, heard before Judge Neil Tuchten yesterday.

AfriForum’s main concern is the replacement of segments of Church Street with four names – Stanza Bopape, Helen Joseph, Dr WF Nkomo and Elias Motsoaledi.

AfriForum’s legal representative, Quintus Pelser SC, argued that the cutting up of the street into segments for purposes of renaming was against the council’s policy.

Pelser said council policy on street names and public places indicated that a single street should have a single name. “Council acted with complete disregard to their own policy,” said Pelser.

He further argued that the name Church didn’t offend anyone.

Pelser said AfriForum had initially focused on Church Street but decided to expand their focus to other 25 street names after the municipality decided to go ahead with the replacement of some street names. He cited General Louis Botha Drive, which has since been changed to January Masilela, as an example.

Pelser said it was not clear what criteria the municipality used when it decided on which streets should undergo name changes.

“What is surprising is that John Vorster is not on the list,” he added.

The council’s legal representative, Terry Motau SC, argued that it would not cause confusion if both old and new street names were put on name boards, adding that this would be done for six months.

Motau added that the municipality had budgeted R2.7 million for the name change process.

The municipality has also made provision in the current financial year for the replacing of traffic signs.

The municipality has budgeted R98m on capital expenditure and about R3m on operating expenditure.

As at April 20, R82m remains in the budget for capital expenditure on traffic signs. Motau said the amount could remain unspent for the current financial year.

He further argued that the municipality had amended its policy on street names and public places, substituting the requirement that 51 percent of the residents/businesses in a street needed to agree to the name change to that of city-wide participation, which included ward committees, stakeholders and members of the community.

He said Church Street was not under threat, adding: “If it is under threat, it is not to such an extent that the applicant should run to court with an urgent application.”

Judge Tuchten said he had noted that there had been emotional debates with regard to the name change issue.

“This is a sensitive matter… one would not fault the applicants (AfriForum) for approaching the court,” he said. He further stated that political matters were not a children’s tea party.