Metro to officially object to minister over Gqeberha, Kariega names

23 March 2021 - 08:50 By Raahil Sain
Leaders discuss the name changes on Monday night
TOUCHY ISSUE: Leaders discuss the name changes on Monday night
Image: SUPPLIED

The Nelson Mandela Bay municipality will make a formal submission to arts and culture minister Nathi Mthethwa on Tuesday objecting to the names Gqeberha and Kariega.

Mayor Nqaba Bhanga hosted a meeting at City Hall on Monday evening with various stakeholders and called for the process to be reopened.

There have been more than 66,000 complaints from Nelson Mandela Bay residents and Bhanga said that reactions were diverse and did not reflect the views of any particular race.

“It became a conversation across the board and as we move forward as a country it should be a conversation [representing] all people of SA,” Bhanga said.

Political commentator Prof Mcebisi Ndletyana said the the naming process was inadequate in that those who attended the public participation meetings could not be considered as representatives of their communities.

Ndletyana said of the eight public participation meetings held, 393 people had attended in a population of more than 1.4 million.

“That on its own is not representative and this point was raised at the actual meetings when they were held by people who attended.

“In Motherwell, for instance, only 10 people attended in a community of more than 140,000.”

A total of 70 people attended the public participation meetings in Kariega.

“So there is an issue of representation and the reason for this is the geographical name council complied with the most minimal procedures in organising the event.

“The fact that you had such minuscule attendance testifies to the inadequacy of the mobilisation process leading towards the event.”

Ndletyana said the council had gone ahead with the process based on minimal procedures of compliance over the integrity and credibility of the outcome.

He said technical requirements also included that if historical names were to be restored they needed to be restored in their linguistic form.

“So the question is why not if you are spelling it, spell it in the original Khoi and San alphabets if you call them that?” he asked.

He said the intention of name changes was not to trigger controversy but rather to foster social cohesion.

“It doesn’t make sense to insist on a name of which you cannot draw any definite conclusion about its meaning.

“And those claiming to affirm that it’s a Xhosa name do not know its origin or meaning of this name.

“So it is self-contradictory, you are not achieving social cohesion but creating a wedge so that’s another contradiction that sparks a complaint,” Ndletyana said.

Another issue revolved around the brand of the city, with the name Nelson Mandela City coming up in conversations as a better choice, dating back to 2007 before preparations for the Fifa World Cup 2010.

“[The metro] thought about how best to market the city and they decided against using Port Elizabeth because Port Elizabeth is not necessarily the best brand.

“Already the metro was called the Nelson Mandela metro so they decided on the Nelson Mandela name because that is a better brand and is an internationally known brand, a name of an iconic figure who is loved.”

He said the metro wanted to market the city at the time as Nelson Mandela City but could not do that because they had not gone through the public process of renaming.

“So the city already has a brand on Nelson Mandela. If you impose a different name on that you are then diluting an already existing brand,” he said.

Ndletyana said the submission was not objecting to the process of renaming the city, while there was wide support for name changes because it was recognised as a measure to address injuries of the past.

He said the objections to the minister were based on the impact it was likely to have on creating divisions in a city that had been working hard to build unity.

Part of that unity could be seen in how people had generally embraced the renaming of the airport to Chief Dawid Stuurman International Airport, he said.

Sports, arts and culture executive director Noxolo Nqwazi said most people were saying that while they agreed with name changes they were unhappy with Gqeberha.

Nqwazi said the outcry on social media and formal letters received by the metro had been overwhelming.

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