South African cities’ colonial names renamed in Xhosa
In September 2020, the Minister for Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, recommended an audit of offensive naming, symbols and structures, such as statues, street names, public spaces, etc.
Mthethwa said it was unfair that when it comes to apartheid and colonial symbols still dominating the landscape, South Africa’s black majority population remains an ethnic minority.
It was a long process that extended nearly two years. It was not only a legal challenge, but people were also given the chance to oppose all of the reforms suggested.
Port Elizabeth, PE International Airport and several other places, such as Berlin, Uitenhage and King Williams Town, have been included in the new name changes. Changes have already been gazetted.
A backlash from some residents was caused by the proposed name changes, particularly for Port Elizabeth. In 2019, a petition titled “Keep the name Port Elizabeth” started to circulate on social media.
When Whites arrived in South Africa, they stated naming places ignoring the original names by African which are today being restored.
Port Elizabeth settled by whites in 1820 around Fort Frederick, named after Sir Rufane Donkin, acting governor of Cape Colony, for his late wife, Lady Elizabeth.
The new name has been given by the KwaMagxaki’s Boy Lamani who says that Gqeberha is the Walmer Township isiXhosa name, one of the first and oldest cityships in the town of Port Elizabeth.
“Walmer was originally called Gqeberha, but Gqeberha lost its popularity because the Walmer name grew as the industrialisation grew.”
Minister Mthethwa confirmed the official approval of the following amendments:
Port Elizabeth will be changed to Gqeberha
Uitenhage will be changed to Kariega
Berlin will be changed to Ntabozuko
MaClear Town will change to Nqanqarhu
King Williams Town will change to Qonce Airports
The Port Elizabeth International Airport will change to Chief Dawid Stuurman International Airport
East London Airport will change to King Phalo Airport
Activists from Uganda to Nigeria call on their governments to get the names of colonialists out of the streets.