Opposition political parties on Wednesday expressed shocked at the reaction of local African National Congress (ANC) leaders on the ruling of the Pretoria High Court preventing the name Pretoria being replaced with Tshwane on road signs.
On Tuesday the court granted an urgent interim interdict to the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) and AfriForum, provisionally putting a halt to the council’s plans to replace the name Pretoria with Tshwane across the board.
Tshwane Mayor Gwen Ramokgopa reportedly called for the parties that dragged the council to court to resign from the council.
She also questioned the parties’ motives, saying they are working against the new dispensation.
”We have embraced the Vootrekker Monument, Die Stem as a component of the new National Anthem, the statue of Paul Kruger and many other Afrikaner symbols in spite of the painful history that subjugated and denied us our humanity,” Ramokgopa said.
But it was the reported remarks of Blanco Mabaso, ANC secretary for the Tshwane region, that irked the opposition parties most.
”Be glad that there still is a neighbourhood with the name Pretoria. Do not tempt the ANC [or] we will change that as well,” he said.
”Various street names will be changed in future. It also time to ask ourselves why the statue of Paul Kruger is still standing on Church Square,” he continued.
FF+’s MP and chairperson in the greater Pretoria region Willie Spies said: ”The FF+ finds it a pity that the ANC is attempting through this to, in an infantile way, show who the boss is.
”This reveals a Mugabe mentality of the local ANC which, as a political power, is starting to doubt its own position of power and which no longer has any answers to the challenges of the city’s politics.”
He said it was clear that the local ANC wanted to escalate the dispute by creating further conflict.
”The ANC is playing a dangerous game by consistently tampering with Afrikaner symbols,” Spies said.
He warned that if the ANC touched the statue of Paul Kruger on Church Square, the current feeling of unity amongst Afrikaners, as a result of the ANC’s having offended them, would only be strengthened.
Fred Nel, leader of the DA in the Tshwane metro council, said the statement by Mabaso ”shines big red warning lights for democracy in South Africa”.
”It is a clear and significant attack on democracy in our city and our country when senior ANC officials react in this way to court judgements. Mabaso’s threats are threatening our residents’ human rights that guarantee them freedom of speech, free political activity and the freedom to question decisions of authorities,” Nel said.
”To threaten residents and opposition parties if they oppose questionable decisions made by ANC leader in government positions is the first step towards despotism,” he added.
He called on Ramokgopa and the ANC leadership to distance themselves from Mabaso’s threats.
”Decisions that affect people’s cultural identities can be very emotional and should be dealt with in a rational, cooperative and respectful manner, not through threats,” he added. — Sapa