- South Africa's capital, Pretoria, may soon change its name to Tshwane if the ruling ANC party gets it as it wants. The opposition and a local action committee however protest, saying the name change is not popularly rooted and only a gimmick to deflect attention from poor governance ahead of local elections.
Pretoria's city council, which is dominated by the South Africa's ruling ANC party, this week voted to change the capital's name to Tshwane. The name shift was to put an end to South Africa's colonial past, as the city had been named after a Boer colonialist - Andries Pretorius - who successfully fought British and Zulu troops. Tshwane, on the other hand, was the old name of the greater area used by the pre-colonial population.
The city's Mayor, Smangaliso Mkhatshwa, promoted the name change and celebrated the vote in the council. "We are confirming the demise of oppression and the advent of freedom," Mr Mkhatshwa states. "We are underlining the death of apartheid and the birth of democracy."
According to the ANC majority in the Pretoria - or Tswane - city council, the name of Pretoria however still will be preserved for the city's central business district. Future references to South Africa's capital will however have to be made to the city of Tshwane, if the central government approves of the name shift.
The decision by the city council however has not gone in a smooth way. The local opposition, mostly by the conservative Democratic Alliance (DA), strongly protested the vote furiously. As the news came out, protest also spread outside the city council.
Today, the Pretoria Civil Action Committee (PCAC) - uniting businesses, trade unions and civil society organisations - was formed to protest the council's decision. PCAC is to run a "Pretoria is Pretoria" campaign to hinder the name shift. The pressure group proposes a compromise that would see the Metropolitan Council called Tshwane, while businesses and residents could maintain their postal address in Pretoria.
The city's chamber of commerce especially has reacted to Mayor Mkhatshwa's announcement that businesses and other institutions should help to pay the costs of the name change. The PCAC said Pretoria taxpayers and business did not wish to pay for a change they did not support.
Also the DA opposition's central spokeswoman on arts and culture, Desiree van der Walt, today strongly protested the proposed name change, claiming the ANC had "treated the public with contempt." With the forthcoming local government elections, it was "clear that the ANC is attempting to deflect attention from its poor service delivery record by trying to mobilise support around the emotionally charged name change issue," Ms van der Walt said.
- The name 'Pretoria' holds some historical significance and is not offensive, the DA spokeswoman said. Unless a geographical name was hurtful or otherwise indisputably offensive, existing names should be retained, the opposition held. "Only if there is a clear need and desirability, a change of name should be considered." This was not the case of Pretoria.
South Africa's main opposition party further held that there had been no consideration for the citizens of Pretoria in the making of this decision. According to the local press in Pretoria, however, a clear majority of the city's inhabitants favoured the name Tshwane. Pretoria was mostly favoured by the city's white minority.
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