The South African Geographical Names Council has changed 849 names of residential areas, suburbs and national geographic places over the past 14 years, the department of arts and culture said.
“This entails decolonising the heritage landscape by replacing colonial names with the names that reflect a post-colonial, post-apartheid, democratic South Africa,” the department said in a presentation given to Parliament’s portfolio committee for arts and culture on Tuesday.
According to statistics, most of the new place names the department approved since 1996 were in Sotho (188 names), followed by Xhosa with 128, Setswana with 118, Venda with 88 and English with 62 names.
Lowest on the list were names in Afrikaans with a total of 28, Tsonga with 23 and Ndebele with seven.
The statistics showed that the most name changes were made in Limpopo with a total of 318, followed by Mpumalanga with 136 changes.
The Eastern Cape had 134 changes, the North West 127, KwaZulu-Natal 54, Western Cape 35, Gauteng 31, the Free State eight and the Northern Cape six.
‘Reverse form of discrimination’
However, there were perceptions that the heritage of certain cultural groups was being destroyed and that the renaming was a “reverse form of discrimination”, the department told the committee.
The Burger newspaper on Wednesday reported that more than a third of the 328 name changes made between 2000 and the start of 2010 had involved replacing Afrikaans names.
Only 28 — or 3% — of the 849 names given were Afrikaans.
Phakamani Mthembu, the director for living heritage at the department, told the committee it was a misconception that Afrikaans names were disappearing.
“Afrikaans is actually benefiting a lot. Think about a name like Diepsloot [a settlement north of Johannesburg] for an area where no white people are living,” he reportedly told the portfolio committee.
“Very few new suburbs or property developments get ethnic names. Most are given pretty English names like ‘Sea View’,” he said.
He admitted that name changes led to “conflict and arguments”. — Sapa