List of placename renaming in South Africa

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Since 1994, there have been a large number of places in South Africa which have been renamed for political, ethnic, or even economic reasons. These name changes were at first to remove politically motivated, incorrectly spelt or offensive names (such as those named after apartheid leaders) from the South African landscape. However, since 2000 these name changes have targeted places of mostly Afrikaans but also English-speaking origin, with many places now named after anti-apartheid activists. The following article covers the name changes in South Africa by province since the first multi-racial elections in 1994.

It should also be noted, however, that a number of places in South Africa had been renamed before 1994. These name changes were much rarer and occurred over long periods time.

Eastern Cape[edit]

Eastern Cape in South Africa.svg

The Eastern Cape has, after the Limpopo province, been home to the most name changes in post-1994 South Africa. Most name changes have been correcting misspellings in the former homelands of Transkei and Ciskei (see below). There have also been a number of name change proposals in the western half of the province for places of Afrikaans or English origin.

Settlements[edit]

  • Bisho → Bhisho (2004; former capital of Ciskei)[1]
  • Cala → Kala (2004)
  • Engcobo → Ngcobo (2004)
  • Idutywa → Dutywa (2004)
  • Umtata → Mthatha (2004; former capital of Transkei)

Airports[edit]

Free State[edit]

Free State in South Africa.svg

The Free State has only experienced minor name changes. The province recently renamed its only international airport in Bloemfontein after anti-apartheid activist Bram Fischer.

Gauteng[edit]

Gauteng in South Africa.svg

Gauteng, South Africa's most urbanised province, has seen a number of name changes, but mostly for economic or historical reasons, rather than Africanisation. Probably the most controversial name change in South African history has been that of Pretoria, where there have been proposals to change the city's name to Tshwane (already the name of the metro it lies in).

Settlements[edit]

  • VerwoerdburgCenturion (1994)
    • The first name change in post-1994 South Africa. Verwoerdburg was named after Hendrik Verwoerd, the so-called "architect of Apartheid" and was deemed offensive to many people and was changed to the neutral name of Centurion.
  • Sophiatown → Triomf (1954) → Sophiatown (2006)
    • In 2006 the suburb of Triomf had its name restored to Sophiatown. Before 1954 the area (then named Sophiatown) was mostly occupied by blacks but were forcibly moved due to it being near local white suburbs. The area was rezoned as Triomf (Afrikaans for "Triumph") with the former name restored 52 years later.

KwaZulu-Natal[edit]

KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.svg

The KwaZulu-Natal province was formed in 1994 from the merger of the then province of Natal and former homeland of KwaZulu.

Settlements[edit]

  • Stanger → KwaDukuza (2006)
    • KwaDukuza was the historic capital of the Zulu but was burnt to the ground in 1828. In 1873 European settlers founded the town Stanger on the site. The town is still commonly and also sometimes officially referred to as Stanger despite being renamed to KwaDukuza in 2006.

Dams[edit]

Limpopo[edit]

Limpopo in South Africa.svg
Old N1 sign showing the city of Polokwane's former name Pietersburg
N1 sign showing Polokwane's new name

The most northerly province of South Africa, the Limpopo province saw some of the earliest name changes and to date more than any other province. The province was carved out of the former Transvaal and initially named the Northern-Transvaal until the following year when it was known simply as the Northern Province. It kept this name until 2002[3] when it was renamed after the Limpopo River which forms South Africa's border with Zimbabwe. Settlement name changes especially targeted places of Afrikaans origin, such as Pietersburg (Polokwane), Nylstroom (Modimolle) and Ellisras (Lephalale), while avoiding places with Bantu or English names such as Northam, Alldays, Tzaneen and Thabazimbi. The Limpopo is the most ethnically black province in South Africa (96.7% as of 2011) and therefore predominantly Afrikaans name changes would probably go ahead with less opposition.

Settlements[edit]

  • Warmbaths (Afrikaans: Warmbad) → Bela-Bela[3]
  • Ellisras → Lephalale[3]
  • Louis Trichardt → Makhado (2003) → Louis Trichardt (2007)[3]
    • The town was renamed Makhado in 2003, but was later in 2007 reverted to the original name of Louis Trichardt.
  • Nylstroom → Modimolle[3]
  • Duiwelskloof → Modjadjiskloof[3]
    • Unlike most name changes, Duiwelskloof kept the Afrikaans suffix "-kloof" (meaning valley) in its new name. The name "Ngoako Ramalepe" was also proposed.
  • Dendron → Mogwadi[3]
  • Potgietersrus → Mokopane[3]
  • Naboomspruit → Mookgophong[3]
    • The new name has sometimes been incorrectly spelled "Mookgopong".
  • Soekmekaar → Morebeng
    • Morebeng has also been spelt "'Morbeng"
  • Messina → Musina[3]
  • Pietersburg → Polokwane[3] (capital)
    • Polokwane was at first sometimes misspelled as "Pholokwane".
  • Bochum → Senwabarwana[3]
  • Vaalwater → Mabatlane (2006) → Vaalwater (2007)

Mpumalanga[edit]

Mpumalanga in South Africa.svg

Mpumalanga, itself renamed in 1995 from the Eastern Transvaal, has seen the entire northern half of the province renamed since 2005, and similarly to the Limpopo, most have been a result of transformation of mostly Afrikaans named places (but also a few of British-origin). These have included the capital, Nelspruit (Mbombela) as well as Witbank (eMalahleni) and Lydenburg (Mashishing). Unlike the Limpopo, the name changes in Mpumalanga have largely (as of 2011) been ignored and apart from the city of Witbank, road signs and usage of the new names has been rare.[4] A couple of settlements of Bantu origin have also changed their names because they were misspelled by early settlers such as Malelane which was renamed to Malalane.

Settlements[edit]

North West[edit]

North West in South Africa.svg

In May 2013 North West province premier Thandi Modise said the province needed to be renamed and not just be referred to as a "direction on a compass".[6] One of the suggestions has been to rename North West after politician and activist Moses Kotane. There is, however, already a municipality in the province named after him.

Settlements[edit]

  • Mafeking → Mafikeng → Mahikeng
    • British settlers first spelt the town as Mafeking but was renamed Mafikeng in 1980 upon incorporation into the bantustan Bophuthatswana. In February 2010 the town was again renamed to Mahikeng. Residents still refer to the town as Mafikeng both informally and formally.

Northern Cape[edit]

Northern Cape in South Africa.svg

The Northern Cape is the only province in South Africa not having undergone any known significant name changes since 1994. The province has an Afrikaans speaking majority and it's unlikely therefore the local population favour any name changes.

Western Cape[edit]

Western Cape in South Africa.svg
Helen Suzman Boulevard in Cape Town, renamed from Western Boulevard in 2011

Similarly to the Northern Cape as noted above, the Western Cape has experienced only a few minor street name changes in the largest cities, but have escaped major name changes of cities and towns because the majority of the population are not Black, but instead Afrikaans or English-speaking Coloureds. Since 2007 the Western Cape has also the highest white percentage (having overtaken Gauteng) and stood in 2007 at 18.4%. There have, however, been a number of suggested name changes, particularly on the southern coast of the province such as for the towns of George or Mossel Bay.

Settlements[edit]

It has been proposed to rename Cape Town (known in Afrikaans and Xhosa as Kaapstad and iKapa respectively) to //Hui !Gaeb (meaning "where the clouds gather"); however, this has been met with strong opposition and it is likely that the ruling party of Cape Town and the Western Cape (the DA) will oppose this. The name has been proposed by the Khoisan community.[7]

Streets[edit]

Four street names have already been changed: Oswald Pirow was changed to Chris Barnard Street, Eastern Boulevard took Nelson Mandela’s name, while the concourse between the Artscape theatre and the Civic Centre was renamed after Albert Luthuli. The pedestrian section of Castle Street is to be renamed after Khoisan leader Krotoa. An additional change – Western Boulevard to Helen Suzman Boulevard – was introduced by special council resolution.

Airports[edit]

D.F. Malan Airport → Cape Town International Airport (1994)

References[edit]