Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

UCT to rename more buildings

Vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town (UCT) Mamokgethi Phakeng has announced that the institution will consider proposals for the renaming of buildings at UCT.

Phakeng released a statement on March 29 inviting the broader UCT community to submit proposals for name changes by April 19. Proposals will be considered for both buildings that are currently named, which will require “a motivation that convincingly makes the case for why the current name should be removed and motivates the rationale for adopting the new name”, and for buildings which are yet to be named.

“The mandate of the Naming of Buildings Committee (NoBC) requires the committee to consider applications for naming and renaming to ensure that UCT adheres to its strategic commitment as set out in the first goal of the 2016–2020 Strategic Planning Framework to reinforce a new, inclusive identity for the university through an appropriate display of artworks, symbols, choice of names of buildings, and use of indigenous South African languages”, said Phakeng.

Former UCT Student Representatives Council (SRC) member Lwazi Somya says that the move comes after many years of campaigning. “I was elected to the SRC 2012-2013, and the first thing on our agenda was to propose that the New Science Lecture Theatre building be renamed Chris Hani, as we heard that it was one of the last places he was at before his assassination. We began to campaign and to lobby people, but it was a very slow process and the university initially wouldn’t budge”, Somya told the Mail & Guardian. The venue was officially renamed in April 2018, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Hani’s death, after having been agreed upon in 2014.

Somya, who was the labour and services officer on the 2012/2013 SRC and then the deputy-president in 2013/2014, says that credit must be given to former UCT dean of humanities Sakhela Buhlungu. Buhlungu is now the vice-chancellor of the University of Fort Hare and it was his support which initiated multiple building name changes at UCT.

Other name changes approved in 2014 included the renaming in 2015 of the Graduate School of Humanities building after scholar-activist Neville Alexander, and the Arts Block becoming the AC Jordan Building in April 2018, in honour of iconic African scholar AC Jordan (father of Pallo Jordan). In late 2018, Jameson Hall was renamed Sarah Baartman Hall, a move Phakeng notes as “a moment in which the university acknowledged the dishonourable history of Leander Starr Jameson while it simultaneously provided an opportunity to recognise the multifaceted struggles and resilience of South African women”.

Current UCT SRC president Asanda Lobelo says that the new renaming policy cannot be looked at in isolation from the pressure which student movements such as #RhodesMustFall placed on institutions to escalate their transformation efforts, saying she “would put a lot of credit to them for finding ourselves at this point now.” Somya also says that the 2015 #FeesMustFall movement demonstrated “a necessity to fast-track” renaming as a means of transformation.

“As the SRC, we support the renaming of buildings that believes in decoloniality and addressing the injustices of the past and support this call wholly and completely”, Lobelo told the M&G. “Names and symbols that are upheld must be interrogated, and every student that comes here must be able to see themselves.”

Phakeng notes in her statement: “UCT recognises that names have meaning and that, as it happens at other institutions around the world, choices are made at certain times in history to honour specific people. However, it is also the role of a university to question the extent to which the institution continues to embrace and uphold names, symbols and imagery that uncritically honour those whom history has shown to be dishonourable.”

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and receive a 40% discount on our annual rate.

Aaisha Dadi Patel
Aaisha Dadi Patel
Aaisha Dadi Patel was previously a member of the M&G’s online team. She holds an MA in Media Studies from the University of the Witwatersrand

Related stories


Subscribers only

Seven years’ radio silence for taxpayer-funded Rhythm FM

Almost R50-million of taxpayers’ money has been invested but the station is yet to broadcast a single show

Q&A Sessions: Zanele Mbuyisa — For the love of people-centred...

She’s worked on one of the biggest class-action cases in South Africa and she’s taken on Uber: Zanele Mbuyisa speaks to Athandiwe Saba about advocating for the underrepresented, getting ‘old’ and transformation in the law fraternity

More top stories

Tekkie Town’s Steinhoff fight: ‘We will get our business back’

Bernard Mostert on the ordeal of losing a business he helped built and the fight to get it back

Israel-Palestine conflict: The past laid the violent foundations

Israel’s iron grip over Palestinians had its beginnings in the demise of the Ottoman Empire and Britain and France’s arbitrary mapping out of the Middle East

ANC confirms it will oppose Magashule’s court application

The ruling party has briefed senior counsel Wim Trengove to head the team that will contest Magashule’s bid to fight his suspension and oust Ramaphosa instead

Magashule defies suspension order and KZN leaders’ advice that he...

A strategy by the KwaZulu-Natal ANC to control the narrative coming out of former president Zuma’s court appearance for arms deal corruption and fraud was thwarted

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…