Letters to the Editor: September 28 to October 4

Two readers take issue with an article on the changing of South African place names. (Christiaan Kotze/Gallo Images/Foto24)

Two readers take issue with an article on the changing of South African place names. (Christiaan Kotze/Gallo Images/Foto24)

Don’t vilify SA’s white people

The article by Ayesha Fakie “How our heritage is reduced to ash”, regarding Heritage Day refers.

The writer takes it on herself to insult, vilify and divide her fellow South Africans, and the white population group in particular.

Her prescriptive and perceived ideas about how different cultural groups should celebrate Heritage Day is not only suggestive of hypocrisy, but of more concern, blatant racism and sexism.

In her hateful diatribe the writer uses the word “white” and “whiteness” at least 60 times. “White supremacy”, “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy”, “white man’s ego”, “white heritage is synonymous with abuse”, “white pride”, “white narcissism”, “violent white heritage”; “white supremacist capitalist society”; “whiteness exploitative capitalism” are a few of her racist utterances used. These are slogans that even Bell Pottinger would not have been able to contrive.

The writer’s hateful, insulting, one-sided, simplistic and narrow-minded view of “white” heritage is totally misplaced.
Historical atrocities and human rights abuses committed by other cultural groups are conveniently ignored. They include the Rwandan genocide, Matabeleland massacres, Shaka wars and human rights abuses and atrocities committed in Zaire, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Uganda, China, Eritrea, Myanmar, et cetera.

I may add that “white” heritage celebration goes beyond having a “braai”, as the writer is suggesting. The advent of electricity, telephony, radio, computers, television, radar, airplanes, trains, bicycles, motor cars, photography, medical science and equipment, agricultural science and equipment, to name but a few, is part of the contribution that “white” heritage has brought to this world. I am certain that Fakie does partake in the use of some of these inventions? Does she acknowledge and celebrate this contribution of “white” heritage? Obviously not.

Judging by the contents of the writer’s tirade, it does appear that she has a significant hateful and racist bias by which she is causing a disservice to all the different cultural groups in our country. Her demeanour joins the ranks of the Penny Sparrows and Kessie Nairs.

In closing, I do find it ironic that the racist, sexist, insulting and dividing utterances made in Fakie’s article are made in her capacity as “head of the Sustained Dialogues Programme at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation”. How bizarre. — Louis du Plessis, Cape Town


Name changes erase history

Denver Webb’s views in “Change the names to rid SA of its colonial, apartheid past” have certainly undergone a sea change from the days when he was in charge of national monuments in the former Ciskei homeland. Back then he was all for commemorating and preserving vestiges of colonialism such as old British forts.

He has always been something of a cultural mercenary with adaptable principles, but even if we accept that he has undergone a genuine conversion from the person who was once committed to monumentalising colonialism to wanting to eradicate it, it is surprising that a historian (as he describes himself for the purposes of the article) should now take such a narrow view of history.

Historians usually look at the big picture and help us to gain perspective on historical events and characters. It’s extremely unusual for a historian to want to obliterate all traces of a period of our history for whatever reason. History is history and is reflected in the names and tangible legacy associated with it.They are part of historical memory, good or bad.

Webb also displays a narrow view of South African place names by suggesting that they were artificially imposed on the landscape, replacing or corrupting existing names. He has clearly not read the book Falling Into Place by one of South Africa’s foremost onomasticians, Elwyn Jenkins.If he did so he would see that, as Jenkins illustrates, South African place names are surprisingly representative and the process of naming has been a dynamic and organic one.People also attach value to names irrespective of their origins.

With reference to the announcement by the minister of arts and culture of the number of objections to the proposed renaming of Grahamstown (“more than 300”), Webb states: “Given the nature of the objections and the relatively small number… it can be assumed the name change will stay.”

Webb should know that the number given by the minister is disputed and that the actual figure is about 10 000 objections, not only from Grahamstonians but from people in all parts of the country and elsewhere.

And how does Webb know what the objections are?They are extremely varied and the minister is required to consider each and every objection and to give reasons for accepting or rejecting them.

Finally, Webb does not seem to be aware that one of the key guidelines contained in the official handbook of the South African Geographical Names Council is that existing names are “part of the historical, cultural and linguistic heritage of the nation which it is more desirable to preserve than destroy”.

The approach that Webb advocates is inconsistent with that important principle. — JockMcConnachie and SigidlaNdumo, joint co-ordinators, Keep Grahamstown Grahamstown 


Israel’s ethnic cleansing continues

What Israel is doing to the Bedouinsin Khan al-Ahmar is an act of ethnic cleansing; it’s part of Israel’s illegal policies against the Palestinians.

For years, Israel has been implementing a policy in the West Bank that is designed to make the ­residents leave their homes and displace them.

Israeli efforts to make life in Khan al-Ahmar so difficult that its residents leave of their own volition started when the nearby settlement of Kfar Adumim was built by Israel in the early 1980s.

Israel now wants the residents of Khan al-Ahmarremoved from their homes; it is disdainful of their rights.

Long-suffering Palestinians have endured Israeli ruthlessness for 70 years without let-up. Things today are worse than ever under increasingly harsh apartheid conditions, including endless ethnic cleansing and the forceful removal of indigenous Palestinians from land Israel wants for exclusive Jewish development and use.

The Palestinians continue to be marginalised, oppressed and targeted by illegal Israeli occupation policies and its colonialist activities.

What is happening in Khan al-Ahmaris a breach of international humanitarian lawand a war crime. Most countries consider settlements built by Israel on land it captured in the 1967 war as illegal and an obstacle to peace. — Sajida Timol, Durban


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