Process underway to rename Cape Town International Airport

Transport minister Blade Nzimande has said that he believes the airport should “be named after one of our liberation icons who fought tirelessly against white supremacy and apartheid”. (Reuters/Hannah McKay)

Transport minister Blade Nzimande has said that he believes the airport should “be named after one of our liberation icons who fought tirelessly against white supremacy and apartheid”. (Reuters/Hannah McKay)

The transport ministry has confirmed that consultations have begun to change the name of Cape Town International Airport, but it remains to be seen if government will take up Economic Freedom Fighter’s leader Julius Malema’s challenge to name the airport Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Airport.

Transport minister Blade Nzimande has said that he believes the airport should “be named after one of our liberation icons who fought tirelessly against white supremacy and apartheid”.

“The ultimate preoccupation is to ensure that we name this airport after one of our heroes or heroines who contributed immensely to the attainment of democratic South Africa, one that is united, non racial, non sexist, democratic and prosperous,” Nzimande said.

In March this year, stakeholders had already discussed the re-naming of the airport. But Malema’s speech at Madikizela-Mandela funeral, where he demanded government name the airport in Madikizela-Mandela’s honour, has generated more interest in the process.

Within 30 minutes of the conclusion of Malema’s speech on Saturday, the Wikipedia entry for the airport had already been edited to call it “Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Airport”.

However, the naming is not yet a done deal.

The transport ministry canvassed a number of names internally and in media as options for the airport. They include: Nelson Mandela, Albertina Sisulu, Robert Sobukwe, as well as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

On social media, some Capetonians have suggested the airport be named after prominent freedom fighters who were born and lived in the city, but who sometimes do not have the fame of their counterparts who were active in other parts of the country. Among these suggestions, Capetonians named Zainunnisa ‘Cissie’ Gool and Dulcie September.

The transport ministry and the national department of arts and culture are still in the consultation phase of the process, but Nzimande has said he hopes to finalise the name soon.

“Government will work tirelessly to speed up the consultations process so that it is hopefully concluded within the next few months,” Nzimande said.

The Cape Town International Airport has been awarded the best airport in Africa title for a third year running. The number of passengers passing through the airport has also grown by 22% in the last year, according to the airport spokesperson Deidre Davids.

The airport will soon undergo an upgrade that could cost R7-billion in total which is set to be completed in 2021. 

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra’eesa Pather is a general news journalist with the Mail & Guardian’s online team. She cut her teeth at The Daily Vox in Cape Town before moving to Johannesburg and joining the M&G. She's written about memory, race and gender in columns and features, and has dabbled in photography. Read more from Ra'eesa Pather

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