Folly of Cape Town’s name-change policy
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The truth is that it is neither de Klerk nor Mandela who liberated this country, writes Pinkie Khoabane.
The decision by the City of Cape Town to even think of naming a road after an apartheid leader in today’s South Africa is plain regressive and an insult to the many whose blood was lost in attaining our freedom.
It takes us back to the era of Nationalist Party rule when murderers who killed in the name of apartheid, had their names emblazoned on every corner of significant geographic location.
Apartheid architects, Hendrik Verwoerd, John Vorster, D F Malan, Paul Kruger, and many more racist thugs, had their names all over the place. Streets, squares, statues, The Kruger Park, and the Kruger Rand, for example, are some of the symbols which still bear testimony to this painful past.
Sadly many of these names still hog our street corners when they should have been thrown into the dustbin of our vile history a long time ago.
While the process of renaming geographical areas has been slow, though progress has been made, it has been met with resistance by AfriForum, backed by the so-called liberal political party, the Democratic Alliance.
They have dragged some municipalities through the courts in an attempt to keep these names.
Unlike other cities where name-change celebrate and honour people who contributed to South Africa’s liberation struggle, the DA-run Cape Town is contemplating naming Table Bay Boulevard after apartheid SA’s last president, F W De Klerk.
Ironically, Minister of Higher Learning, Blade Ndzimande, had warned of the existence of the National Party despite its death years ago.
Speaking at the ANC’s 103rd birthday celebrations just days before the City’s announcement, Ndzimande said the NP lived through the DA.
Several high-profile Capetonians, including the Premier of the Western Cape, Helen Zille, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, according to the City’s media release, instigated this insensitive move.
A closer look at the list shows that Tutu is the only African name among 27 on that list.
This lot apparently wrote to Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille in June last year, requesting to have De Klerk honoured in this way for his contribution towards a negotiated settlement that led to majority rule.
The problem with naming anything after De Klerk, with the exception of his foundation and his family, of course, is two-fold.
Apart from the fact that the South African Geographical Names Council (SAGNC) advises against using names of living persons to name geographical areas, De Klerk presided over a government whose policy of apartheid was declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations.
The SAGNC is responsible for standardising geographical names in South Africa.
According to South African History Online, De Klerk began his political activism in National Party politics during his time as a lawyer, which was between 1961 and 1972.
That, in effect, means that when former President Nelson Mandela was being arrested on August 5, 1962, De Klerk may have already been involved with the Nats.
Many, as the City of Cape Town is doing, would love to remember De Klerk as the man who brought democracy to South Africa.
Like his Foundation, there’s an attempt to remember and honour his presidential life only – the man, who, alongside Mandela, liberated our country.
This is in itself a deception and another way of the many attempts of rewriting South Africa’s history, which, if left unchallenged, will go down in our history books as truth.
The truth is that it is neither De Klerk nor Mandela who liberated this country but the will of the oppressed people, who had fought for decades against a system that ostracised and subjugated them for nothing else but the colour of their skin.
The truth is that from the time Mandela became politicised, as a young man his activism saw him incarcerated for 27 years, until the day he was released, he had been fighting against the very apartheid system De Klerk was a part of.
De Klerk held various ministerial posts and was at its helm between 1989 and 1994.
The truth is that South Africa and its white citizens could no longer withstand the onslaught from liberation movements, both the banned organisations in exile and structures within the country.
Internationally, South Africa faced sanctions and hostile governments following then president P W Botha’s infamous Rubicon speech.
Many had hoped he would be announcing details of a negotiated settlement but he didn’t.
And so, when whites speak about De Klerk’s referendum in which they were asked if they supported negotiations and boast about “giving blacks their freedom”, they must tell the entire story...
Of struggle, blood, sweat and tears and economic and cultural boycotts and sanctions.
South Africa was in free fall.
There will be those of you who will not like what I’m saying here but I didn’t create this history.
De Klerk, along with his mates in the National Party, created it.
Many who won’t like this truth may even have voted them into office for well over 40 years.
Take responsibility and while at it, advise the City of Cape Town to have more sense.
There are enough names in this country – across race, religion, gender – whose blood and contribution far outweighs De Klerk’s apartheid past.
Frederik van Zyl Slabbert and Alex Borraine are more deserving candidates.
* Khoabane is an author, writer and columnist.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media
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