It’s Makhanda and that’s final, says Mthethwa
But the fight to keep Grahamstown’s name unchanged is not over
Makhanda will stay Makhanda – and that is the last word on the subject, arts and culture minister Nathi Mthethwa says.
But the fight to keep Grahamstown’s name unchanged is not over, according to lobby group Keep Grahamstown Grahamstown (KGG), which is threatening court action.
Mthethwa said on Tuesday that the name change was “official and final”.
However, KGG spokesperson advocate Jock McConnachie said the minister had “displayed flagrant disregard for the rule of law”.
“All I can say is the matter is going to court,” he said later.
“There are many grounds on which we challenge this decision.”
He said the group was “by no means honouring Lieutenant-Colonel John Graham – the founder of the town – or his deeds”.
Mthethwa has said that Graham’s name “evoked unimaginable pain”.
Before publishing the name in the Government Gazette, he said Makhanda, the man the town has been renamed after, “was a Xhosa warrior, philosopher and military man who fought against colonialism – in battles that include one where he led an attack against the British garrison in Grahamstown in 1819”.
In contrast, the name Grahamstown honoured Graham, whose role in the Frontier Wars was to exercise maximum terror on Xhosa natives.
Makhanda was now the town’s official name and that was that, Mthethwa said.
McConnachie said: “The motivation of the campaign is rather that Grahamstown has achieved an identity of its own which is no longer really associated with the name of Colonel John Graham.
“It is important to retain the name Grahamstown alongside that of the Makana municipality as the use of the two names tells the story of how far we’ve come along the road of history and of how opposing histories have become reconciled.”
While Mthethwa insists his ministry received more than 330 objections, KGG said there were thousands.
“We will ask for proof,” McConnachie said.
“We know there are many more complaints.”
Mthethwa said the reasons cited in the objections included lack of consultation, the historical sentiment attached to the name and nostalgia as well as the cost implications.
His spokesperson, Asanda Magaqa, said letters objecting to the name change had been acknowledged by the minister.
“In his letters of acknowledgement, minister Mthethwa advised each objector that he would refer each complaint to the SA Geographical Names Committee for further advice – as directed by the SAGNC Act of 1998,” Magaqa said.
“After taking into consideration the complaints, the advice of the SAGNC and the authoritative documents cited above, the minister applied his mind and took a final decision.
“The minister has formally begun responding to each and every complainant informing them of his decision.”