South African Geographical Names Council

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The South African Geographical Names Council is the official government body of South Africa that advises the executive branch of the central government (in the form of the Minister of Arts and Culture) on new geographical names as well as the changing of existing geographical names.

Purpose of the Council[edit]

The Council was established by the South African Geographical Names Council Act 118 of 1998. The purpose of the act, according to its preamble, is: "To establish a permanent advisory body known as the South African Geographical Names Council to advise the Minister responsible for Arts and Culture on the transformation and standardisation of geographical names in South Africa for official purposes; to determine its objects, functions and methods of work; and to provide for matters connected therewith."

A "geographical name" is defined as any terrestrial feature within the territorial limits of the Republic of South Africa, together with the area of jurisdiction of the Republic acquired by treaty, whether:

  1. natural or made or adapted by human agency.
  2. populated or unpopulated.

The Council determines both the name of each geographical feature and the written form of that name.

Composition of the Council[edit]

The Council must consist of no fewer than 15 and no more than 25 members appointed by the Minister, of whom:

  1. One must be nominated by each of the nine South African provinces.
  2. One must be nominated by each of the following:
    1. The South African Post Office.
    2. The Chief Directorate: National Geo-spatial Information.
    3. The Pan South African Language Board.

The other members of the board must be appointed according to their special competence, experience and interest in the relevant fields and taking into account the linguistic, cultural and demographic characteristics of the population of South Africa.

A member of the Council is appointed for a period of three years and may then be reappointed for a further period of three years.

The Council may meet as often as necessary, but at least three times a year.

Final approval or rejection of a name[edit]

The Minister of Arts and Culture of South Africa has the final power to approve or reject a geographical name recommended by the Geographical Names Council. Any approval or rejection must be published in the South African Government Gazette before it takes effect. However, any person or body dissatisfied with a geographical name approved by the Minister may lodge an appeal against it.


The above article contains extracts from the South African Geographical Names Council Act 118 of 1998, as amended by the Cultural Laws Amendment Act 36 of 2001.

See also[edit]

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