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AfriForum petitions against name changes

AfriForum will send a petition to Arts and Culture Minister Lulu Xingwana to stop the changing of the names of 42 towns, the organisation said on Monday.

Spokesperson Willie Spies said the organisation supported a last effort to stop the changes of the names of towns, mostly from Mpumalanga, after Xingwana published an announcement that she had approved the changes in the Government Gazette of October 16.

Included in the list are towns like Nelspruit, changed to Mbombela, and Waterval Boven, changed to Emgwenya.

The announcement led to an outcry from mostly opposition parties and civil movements like the Afrikanerbond, who said the changes had been done without any consultation.

The Afrikanerbond sent a letter to President Jacob Zuma, asking him to interfere to stop the changes.

”The changing of the name of the town from Machadodorp to eMakhazeni has been steamrollered through, despite the fact that the majority of the residents who attended the public consultation meetings unambiguously declared themselves to be against the name change,” said Spies.

He said the town was of particular cultural historical significance as it was named after a Portuguese official responsible for the construction of a railway line between Pretoria and Maputo in the late 19th century.

”The railway line still serves as backbone of the so-called Maputo corridor by means of which trade between South Africa and Mozambique was normalised after the civil war in this neighbouring country had come to an end,” he said.

During the Anglo-Boer War Machadodorp even served as the capital of the Zuid-Afrikaanse Republiek (ZAR) for a short while. he said.

Spies said objectors had one month from the announcement of the minister’s approval of a new name to submit written objections.

”Based on these objections, the minister may decide to uphold the new name, or to refer the decision back to the Geographical Names Council for reconsideration,” he said.

In every case she has to provide the complainants with the reasons for her decision.

Presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya confirmed that the Presidency had received a letter from the Afrikanerbond, but said he was not sure whether Zuma himself had seen it.

He said the president would only interfere if the processes were not properly followed.

”If it comes out that some process have not been carried out properly, the president will advise the matter to be sent back to the minister,” he said.

”It is important that all affected stakeholders be consulted and engaged and the process should be unifying rather than divisive,” he said. — Sapa

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