Tempers fray over Durban name changes

Durban’s street-renaming process has raised eyebrows and left the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) threatening to march through the city in protest, the Daily News reported on Monday.

At the centre of the controversy is the Mangosuthu Highway in Durban’s Umlazi township. It was named during the apartheid era after the party’s leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

The Daily News quoted African National Congress (ANC) eThekwini councillor Zandile Gumede as confirming that the highway’s name will change soon because the “proper processes” were not followed when it was originally named.

Gumede declined to tell the South African Press Association what the new name will be or when the renaming process for the highway is expected to be completed.

IFP councillor Theresa Nzuza was quoted as saying: “We will be marching against the ANC’s autocracy.”

She also pointed out that the party is extremely unhappy at the renaming of the new stadium being built for the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

When plans for stadium were originally announced by KwaZulu-Natal Premier S’bu Ndebele, he said the stadium would be called King Senzangakhona Stadium.

However, the city has decided to name the stadium after Moses Mabhida, the former secretary general of the South African Communist Party who died in exile.

‘Street of vice’

As the IFP threatens to march, the decision by the city fathers to rename Point Road—famous for its ladies of the night and bar brawls of visiting sailors—after Mahatma Gandhi has generated much debate within South Africa and India.

“Mahatma’s name for a street of vice!” read the headline in one of India’s bestselling daily newspapers, the Hindu, on February 28.
Another, in the Times of India, read: “SA prostitution hub to be named after Gandhi”.

And while political activist Fatima Meer may have been appalled at the decision by the city fathers, the Times of India on February 28 said the decision was a bid to give “the notorious neighbourhood a moral facelift”.

Bloggers have also been having their say.

Ashwin Desai, a local activist and academic, said: “It’s high time we changed the colonial and apartheid features of the city and I fully support the move. But I have a problem when Gandhi’s name is used for the Point Road area. Gandhi practised as a lawyer in West Street and, if anything, I think the main street should have been named after Gandhi.”

However, eThekwini deputy mayor Logie Naidoo was quoted as saying: “The renaming of the nine streets has been done after a great deal of thought and research. Point Road was renamed after Mahatma Gandhi because it was in this area that the first Indians who came from India had set foot on South African soil and settled.

“I don’t think people should see anything untoward in this renaming.”—Sapa

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