Another set of name changes for South Africa

 ·6 Dec 2023

The Department of Sport, Art and Culture has gazetted another round of name changes, focusing on villages and a human settlement in the Eastern Cape.

These are the latest changes to be made:

  • The village of Makhatlanyeng will be changed to Seqebuku
  • The village of Ramafole will be officially registered as such
  • The township in Matatiele Local is changing to Willie Jones

South Africa has seen several key name changes over the last few years, mainly concentrated in the Eastern Cape. Aside from the naming of new geographic features in KwaZulu-Natal, most of the changed names for towns and cities have been in the Eastern Cape.

According to the department, 103 geographical name changes have occurred in the Eastern Cape since 2019.

In November, minister Zizi Kodwa said that the department was looking to accelerate name changes in the Free State, which has been “very slow” to transform.

To pick up the pace, the South African Geographical Names Council held an awareness campaign in Bloemfontein on the 28 of June 2023, it said, during which, all district municipalities and the Provincial Geographical Names Committee were given information on the process that needs to be followed when names of streets, towns and cities are proposed to be changed.

“This process includes public consultation with the local communities. This awareness workshop was livestreamed to the public in the Free State to create community awareness of the urgency to transform South Africa’s naming landscape,” he said at the time.

The minister said that communities in the Free State have not put forward many appeals or recommendations for name changes because they are focused on more pressing service delivery issues.

How names are changed in South Africa

Name changes are driven by communities and cannot be initiated by the department or provincial governments themselves.

Responding to a parliamentary Q&A in November, Kodwa detailed the exact process that goes into changing names in the country.

To initiate a name change, communities do not need to meet a specific threshold of support for the name change, but the relevant arguments and accompanying details are considered in the process.

Individual South African citizens or a group of citizens can propose a name change in terms of the South African Geographical Council Act, Act No 118 of 1998.

The Minister considers the application together with relevant accompanying details, including the motivation for the name change, the evidence of public consultation and, where applicable, written permission from the family after whom the geographical feature is proposed to be named.

When a geographical feature or place name is proposed for change, a prescribed South African Geographical Names Council application form needs to be completed by the applicant, who must be a South African citizen.

The application form is submitted to the relevant Provincial Geographical Names Committee (PGNC) in the relevant province. The PGNC will do desktop research to check if the proposed name is a national feature, is not a duplication of an existing name, is not undesirable in terms of race, gender.

The PGNC will then put out local advertisements in community radio stations and local print media informing the local community of public consultation meetings with details like the dates, venues, and times for the public consultation meetings.

The PGNC will host public consultation meetings during which the community will discuss the proposed name changes. Attendance registers and minutes are kept during these meetings.

In instances where the new name is the name of a person, the family of the person after whom the geographical feature will be named, written permission from that family is required. It is desirable that the local municipality concerned is also consulted in order for it to indicate its support for the name change.

A simple majority of meeting attendees is required for the name change to be supported at the local community level.

Once the PGNC is satisfied that there is community support for the name change and that all required documentation like proof of community meetings, with attendance registers and minutes, the information is submitted to the South African Geographical Names Council (SAGNC).

The SAGNC sits once a quarter to consider all geographical names applications submitted to it.

The SAGNC reviews all the documentation including the application form, evidence of public consultations, attendance registers and minutes of meetings. The SAGNC will also require PGNCs to provide evidence that public consultation meetings were advertised to local communities.

Once the SAGNC is satisfied that the due process was followed and that all documentation is provided, it will recommend the name change to the Minister. The relevant documentation will be submitted to the Minister who will apply his mind before taking the decision to either approve or not approve the name change application.

Once the Minister has taken a decision, the name is put in the government gazette for public information.

The public has thirty days after the gazetting of a name change to submit objections in writing to the Minister. This is in terms of section 10 of the SAGNC Act 118 of 1998.

The Minister will consider all objections and respond to all objectors in writing whether to reverse the name change or sustain his initial decision to approve the name change. This concludes the process.

Read: The province being targetted next for name changes in South Africa

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