The spray-paint revolution

The pranksters who last week renamed Durban’s Kinnord Place after eThekwini municipal manager Mike Sutcliffe obviously had more than one message in mind.

The renamed Mike Sutcliffe Boulevard is a dead end.

And it is so tiny that considering it a boulevard immediately reminds one of the delusions of grandeur of which the municipal manager is so often accused. If Kinnord Place is a boulevard, then Sutcliffe might just be creator of the universe.

The prank is merely one of several dissident acts by Durban residents since new street signs started appearing at the beginning of July.

Several signs in Berea, including Problem Mkhize Road (a trade unionist), Sphiwe Zuma Road (a student leader at UKZN) and Sandile Thusi Road (an ANC member who served in the municipality’s communications department), have been vandalised, with protesters spraying over the new names with black paint.

As a result, both Sutcliffe and Logie Naidoo, the city’s deputy mayor and resident “sartorial-Ground Zero”, have blustered on about “right-wingers”.

Zandile Gumede, chairperson of the Masakhane Committee responsible for name changes, has promised to set up traps and “act decisively” against the said counter-revolutionaries.

About a month since the first reported case of vandalism, the city still awaits the arrest of a blue-rinse granny, old South African knickers peeping out her of waistband, her legs mangled by the steel jaws of a bear trap. Or a skinhead teenager audaciously caught by a diligent policeman who’d spent the night waiting in ambush.

With Umlazi residents threatening to blow up Mangosuthu Highway if it is changed to Griffiths Mxenge Highway, the council has temporarily backtracked on that name change. Although cynics believe it has less to do with inter-party reconciliation and more to do with not giving the IFP a platform on which to mobilise ahead of next year’s general election.

Those who had protested against the changing of Point Road to Mahatma Gandhi Road, because the street is renowned for its street walkers and drug pushers and is the antithesis of Gandhi’s philosophy, were presumably ignored because pacifists aren’t really going to download homemade bomb recipes from the internet.

Nor was the ANC-controlled municipality too concerned about the racial ghettoisation of names: aside from Mahatma Gandhi Road, all streets in the central business district named after people of Indian descent, such as SACP leader Dr Yusuf Dadoo, appear to be concentrated around the former “Indian” Grey Street casbah area.

While the detractors accuse the process of being ill-conceived, the physical changing of street signs also appears to have been poorly managed. Family members of activist Lena Ahrens, who was murdered in a taxi in 2001, have complained that the council misspelt her name as “Lena Arense”.

Meanwhile, the DA and the IFP recently lodged a joint high court challenge to set aside the renaming of more than 100 streets, as well as the proposed Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre and the still-to-be-completed 2010 World Cup stadium (called Moses Mabhida Stadium).

Both parties contend that the renaming process was undemocratic and that the more than 32 000 objections lodged have not been properly considered.

“The council and city manager acted in an irresponsible and immature manner throughout the entire name-changing process with total disregard to the rights of the general community and toadying to a vociferous political faction [the pro-Jacob Zuma ANC eThekwini region],” says DA caucus leader John Steenhuisen in court papers.

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi is a freelance journalist.His areas of interest include social justice; citizen mobilisation and state violence; protest; the constitution and the constitutional court and football. Read more from Niren Tolsi

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