South Africa: Makhanda to Stay - Court Rules Proper Process Followed for Grahamstown Name Change

11 December 2019

A court bid to set aside the decision of Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa to change the name of Grahamstown to Makhanda, has failed.

On Tuesday, Eastern Cape High Court Judge Murray Louw on Tuesday found that processes were followed and adequate consultation took place.

Sigidla Ndumo, a joint co-ordinator of the movement Keep Grahamstown Grahamstown (KGG), had challenged the name change in court.

Ndumo argued that Mthethwa's decision was irrational and that there was limited evidence of the involvement of the local population.

Mthethwa announced that he had made a final determination on the gazetted name change in October last year.

His department said there had been calls for almost 20 years to change the town's name.

The department said that "Makhanda", who was also known as Nxele, was a Xhosa warrior, philosopher and prophet.

He was also a military man who fought against colonialism in battles that included one where he led an attack against the British garrison at Grahamstown in 1819.

'Name change based on 'offensiveness'

The department said public participation with stakeholders had resulted in the proposed names of Rhini, Makana, Makhanda and Nxele.

Ndumo complained that the minister had not taken into account a previous name change process between 2007 and 2013.

But Louw found that the KGG had declined to be involved in consultations that followed.

"The fact remains that it was invited to be part of the consultation process at the outset and declined to participate in that process - thus willingly and deliberately depriving the minister, name committee and participants, at the commencement of the process, of the benefit of its views and standpoints. It appears now, however, to complain thereof from the shadows," he said.

The court also found that the 2007 to 2013 process came to a dead end and that Mthethwa was not required to "troll" through previous processes to assess attitudes and views of a different name at a different time.

Ndumo's argument that the name change was based on "offensiveness", not historical reasons, also failed.

"I do not see that the fact that the minister's recommendation of the name change justification was that this 'replaced a name which epitomises brutal colonial subjugation with one that epitomises redress and restoration of human dignity', is in any way a reviewable irregularity based on offensiveness and not historical reasons as is contended. This is far too narrow a view of what the minister was obliged to consider," said Louw.

The review application was therefore dismissed.

Source: News24

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