Grahamstown has officially been renamed Makhanda despite an influx of thousands of complaints and objections to the historical towns’ renaming.
Yesterday, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa, issued a statement announcing the renaming of Grahamstown.
On June 29, Mthethwa published the approval of “Grahamstown” to “Makhanda” in the Government Gazette after receiving recommendations from the South African Geographical Names Council.
The Department went on record saying they received more than 332 complaints objecting to the name change. They cited reasons, including the claim, that the Government Gazette on 29 June 2018 was defective because it “…did not state the fact that the public have one month to object or complain to the Minister on his 29 June 2018 decision”.
Other objections include lack of consultation i.e. process, historical sentiment, nostalgia, and cost implications of the name change.
Some locals argued that there were far more objections than just 332 and that the whole process of renaming was disorderly.
“If he had said 3 332 objections and doubled it he would still have been about 3 332 objections short of the number of objections that were actually submitted to his office. The Keep Grahamstown Grahamstown’s (KGG) submission alone was on behalf of +-10 000 individual objectors.
The entire process was completely botched from beginning to end, including the publication of a defective notice. The decision was predetermined years ago and has nothing to do with the will of Grahamstonians which is being ignored. They are on a crusade to remove every last colonial name in the Eastern Cape,” said Jock McConnachie, spokesperson for KGG.
According to the Department, all claims and letters objections have been acknowledged in writing. In his letters of acknowledgement, Mthethwa advised that he would refer each complaint to the South African Geographical Names Council (SAGNC) for further advice as directed by the “South African Geographical Names Act, 1998”.
After taking into consideration complaints, the advice from the SAGNC, and authoritative documents cited above, Mthethwa made the final decision.
Minister Mthethwa advises locals that after following thorough with this assiduous and painstaking process, he has found no just cause to withdraw the notice published in the Government Gazette on 29 June 2018 and as such the proclamation as published in the Government Gazette in question stands.
“The historical sentiments and arguments around heritage values were noted. While it is indeed the Department of Arts and Culture’s mandate to promote and preserve our heritage- we cannot allow these sentiments to undermine government’s transformational agenda on the country’s heritage landscape. Standardisation of geographical names form part of a broader government transformation programme towards addressing the imbalances of the past, and it forms part of the symbolic reparations as recommended by the ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’.” said Mthethwa
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 whose 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.
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 on (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.