Picture: Google Maps
Johannesburg - A brawl broke out in the Joburg City council this week over a motion to rename one of Joburg’s prominent roads, Sandton Drive, after Leila Khaled, a member of the resistance movement the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

The ANC tabled the motion and argued it was important for Joburg to stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine against “the oppressive state of Israel”.

The motion received support from the EFF and was subsequently passed.

The parties also expressed support for the Free Palestine Movement, a group pressuring the Israeli government to recognise the human rights of Palestinians.

Initially, the motion was to rename the road “City of Ramallah”, a Palestinian city in central West Bank, but following an amendment, it called for the road to be named after Khaled.

The DA refused to support its ally the EFF, saying the motion was a blatant violation of the City’s naming policy, and because it had been substantially altered it needed to be returned to the programming committee for review.

MMC for community development Nonhlanhla Sifumba said the motion lacked substance as the name Khaled held no meaning for Joburg.

Sifumba said street names should promote a sense of ownership of, and the character of the City as per its street-naming policy.

“In this case, this motion fails to meet any of the requirements.”

The EFF interrupted Sifumba and accused the DA of “selling out” and turning a blind eye to injustices committed by the Israeli government.

EFF Joburg region chairperson Musa Novela said Joburg as a major city in Africa had a responsibility to stand with the people of Palestine and highlight their plight.

“It's our duty to stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine against the oppressive state of Israel.”

In May, the South Africa government withdrew its ambassador to Israel, Sisa Ngombane, following the killing of more than 50 Palestinians, who were protesting against the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, at the border between Israel and Gaza. The government also resolved to downgrade its Israeli embassy to a liaison office.

The DA then criticised the government’s action, saying it was a departure from the government’s stance on a two-state solution for Israel.

DA councillor Sergio dos Santos said the party would challenge the motion in writing as it fell short of all processes. “According to the policy, all implications must be considered when seeking to change the name of a public space, such as a road. This includes public consultations and cost implications, which can be significant in a case such as this.”

Dos Santos said it would be ill-advised for the City to consider any name change while it was operating with limited resources.

“We have inherited a city with a R170 billion backlog and over 200 informal settlements where the needs of our residents are desperate, including not having basic services such as sanitation.

“How do we justify spending our limited resources by changing street names which are not offensive, as opposed to seeing to the dignity of our residents?”

In 2013 the names of several prominent streets were changed, including Market Street, which was renamed after political activist Albertina Nontsikelelo Sisulu. The City’s policy on the naming of streets and public places as revised in May 2017 states that: “Only in rare cases should people’s names be used and any submissions to petition a name after a person must be accompanied by a detailed motivation and profile, indicating why the specific person is worthy of the honour.”

Saturday Star