LISTEN | Process to rename William Nicol Drive after Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has begun

01 October 2020 - 18:05
The Johannesburg council has agreed on a proposal to rename William Nicol Drive in Johannesburg after Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
The Johannesburg council has agreed on a proposal to rename William Nicol Drive in Johannesburg after Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
Image: Masi Losi

After a recent announcement by Johannesburg mayor Geoff Makhubo, the public participation process to rename William Nicol Drive has begun.

“We said as the City of Johannesburg to come and pay our respects and officially launch the start of the public participation process to rename William Nicol [Drive] after a motion of council was passed a year and half ago, to honour Winnie Mandela and ensure that with time William Nicol will be renamed after her,” said Makhubo.

Senior lecturer at the department of historical studies at the University of Johannesburg, Dr Stephen Sparks says renaming is important for transformation.

“Name changes are symbolically important and symbolism matters. If the majority of streets, for example, are named after white political figures, that is conspicuous in a majority black country,” he said.

“There is a sense of historical wound among many black South Africans because of our racially divided past, which is understandable and important and must be believed.”

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He further highlighted that though these processes are important, there are many other issues SA needs to deal with.

“Governing, and especially nationalist, elites always want to put their stamp on society. Street signs, like monuments, are a way to legitimate and assert their rule - but they are also too easy,” said Sparks.

“Changing some signs isn't the most pressing change that we need in SA as our employment crisis grows ever more terrifying, especially in light of Covid. We are trying to keep the lights on and service major debt, and it is so easy to change names and take down statues.”

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