COMMENT/OBJECTION ON PROPOSED NAME CHANGE OF GRAHAMSTOWN TO MAKHANDA

This is a response to the Notice calling for comments/objections to the proposed name change of Grahamstown to Makhanda in the Daily Dispatch & Herald newspapers of 17 May 2016.  It is submitted on our own behalf as residents of Grahamstown and on behalf of the thousands of people, mostly Grahamstonians,  who supported the submission of Keep Grahamstown Grahamstown (KGG) in motivating for the retention of the name of Grahamstown, as referred to more fully below.

The applicable guidelines and legislation require that there be adequate consultation with the affected community regarding any proposed name change.

The Judgment of the Supreme Court of Appeal in the case of The Chairperson’s Association v Minister of Arts & Culture & Others  (Case No.25/2006)  as delivered on 3 March 2007, stated as follows in that connection:

“[46]      The guideline is that before a proposal for a name change, even one of a transformatory nature, is considered, adequate consultation with local communities and other stakeholders must take place.”

The case concerned the renaming of Louis Trichardt to Machado which was reversed by the Supreme Court of Appeal because the municipality, “as the representative of the municipal community”, failed to hold public consultation meetings in a number of wards.  The Judgment found that the statement in the guidelines of the South African Geographical Names Council that it ensures that proper consultation has taken place “is akin to a promise made by a public authority to follow a certain procedure” which was not adhered to.

The decision of the Supreme Court of Appeal is of direct application to the proposed renaming of Grahamstown and the proposal would have to satisfy the same test as applied to the renaming of Louis Trichardt, namely whether or not there has been adequate consultation with the affected community.

It is submitted that for the reasons which follow the recommendation of the ECPGNC that the name of Grahamstown should be changed will not stand legal scrutiny and would inevitably suffer the same fate as the name change of Louis Trichardt to Machado.

The proposal as adopted by the ECGPNC followed the holding of a single public meeting attended by “about 84 persons” (as reported in the Grocott’s Mail).  Two previous attempts to hold the meeting were postponed due to a poor turnout and those who attended the meeting on 11 February were only a very small and unrepresentative section of the affected community.

The “process”of public consultation as conducted by the ECGPNC was also conducted independently of the Makana Municipality and with no reference or regard to the previous three comprehensive processes of public consultation conducted by the Makana Municipality in conjunction with the ECPGNC since 2007.

Each of those previous public consultation processes were conducted over a period of months and comprised the holding of public meetings throughout Makana including the screening of an educational video as commissioned by the Makana Municipality on name changing in general and on the proposed re-naming of Grahamstown in particular.  The video presented the different viewpoints on the issue including the view espoused by the proponents of the name change who included the Makana Municipality’s then Mayor that the name was offensive due to its historical origins and its association with its Founder, Colonel John Graham.

Formal submissions on the proposed name change were invited from the public to be received within certain deadlines and a number of submissions were made by individuals and organisations such as the Grahamstown Residents Association (GRA) as well as a comprehensive submission from Keep Grahamstown Grahamstown (KGG) comprising more than 6000 signatures, emails and smses from Grahamstonians and persons elsewhere in the country and overseas.

The KGG’s standpoint on the issue is that it is important to retain the name of Grahamstown alongside the name of Makana as the name of the greater municipality in the interests of reconciliation whereas changing the name is anti-reconciliation and an act of retribution.   The KGG and its supporters also expressed the viewpoint that the name of Grahamstown was no longer associated with the name of its founder, Col John Graham, but is now rather associated with the many good things which Grahamstown has come to be known for over the past more than 200 years that it has borne the name, such as Rhodes University, its excellent schools and the “Grahamstown Festival”.

Other arguments raised against the name change from other quarters, in particular Grahamstown’s business community, related to the cost of name change and the affects of a name change on the economy of Grahamstown as an established and recognised “brandname” with a worldwide reputation.

The KGG’s submission also included the result of a poll of Grahamstonians the majority of whom were residents of the townships or rural environs and who were mostly not in favour of changing the name of Grahamstown.  The result of the KGG poll was borne out by the results of an independent survey conducted by the Rhodes University Institute for Social and Economic Research on the subject of the proposed name change and other matters, the latter survey being confined exclusively to Grahamstown’s township areas.

The ward meetings that were held during the previous three public consultation processes were mostly poorly attended and those who did attend were generally of the view that name change was unimportant and/or was not a priority issue. As a result no final outcome of the different processes was declared as was supposed to be done in accordance with the timetables as announced by the Makana Municipality’s Naming Task Team and the issue was simply allowed to fall into abeyance at the end of each process.

It has been clear from its pronouncements over the years since the issue was raised that the ECPGNC has long since decided of its own accord and without public consultation that the name of Grahamstown should be changed and that the ECPGNC was determined that it should happen irrespective of public opinion.  The ECPGNC in fact announced in 2008 that the colonial names of all towns in the Eastern Cape were to be changed and the name of Grahamstown was prominent in a “dirty dozen” list of such names, according to a press statement.

The ECPGNC had to be seen to go through the motions of a public consultation process, however, and the Naming Task Team of the Makana Municipality, which was specifically appointed for that purpose, did the bidding of the ECPGNC in conducting the necessary process with a mandate to deliver a predetermined outcome in favour of name change.  After matters did not go according to plan and the Makana Municipality was unable to deliver on its mandate despite three attempts to do so, the ECPGNC clearly lost patience and decided to take matters into its own hands with its own recent fast-track “process”.

But, a comparison of the previous consultation processes and the latest “process”of the ECPGNC reveals that it was woefully inadequate and that the decision taken at the meeting of 11 February 2016 was by no means representative of the views of the affected community.

It is imperative that in considering comments/objections to the proposed name change, the ECPGNC should have regard to the submissions made during the previous public consultation processes on the issue.  Those submissions are still in the possession of the Makana Municipality and the KGG’s submission is specifically incorporated herein by reference.

Other comments/objections on the “process”as conducted by the ECGPNC are as follows:

  1. The applications that were made for the name of Grahamstown to be changed were made by persons who are employees of the Eastern Cape Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts & Culture, the mother-body of the ECPGNC;
  2. The ECGPNC refused to reveal the contents of the applications to the KGG on the pretext that the Applicants had to be protected. The only information provided by the ECPGNC on the applications was that the motivation for changing the name of Grahamstown was “historical”.  According to the Notice calling for comments/objections to the proposal, however, the reason for the change is “Replacement of a name that epitomizes brutal colonial subjugation with one that epitomizes redress and restoration of human dignity“ which equates to the same motivation as during the previous processes, namely that the name was “offensive”.  It is submitted that the historical motivation for changing the name of Grahamstown is outweighed by strong historical reasons for retaining the name and that the outcome of the previous public consultation processes also indicated that the name of Grahamstown is not offensive to the majority of the members of the affected community;
  3. The ECPGNC also refused to answer or provided inadequate answers to a range of questions as raised by the KGG regarding its “process” and related matters, eventually refusing to respond to correspondence in connection with the matter;
  4. The ECPGNC also advised the KGG that only the opinions of persons as expressed at the public meeting would be taken into account and that it would not have regard to petitions and/or the opinions of representative bodies effectively excluding submissions such as that of the KGG;
  5. A representative of the ECPGNC as quoted in the Grocott’s Mail also stated that the previous processes as conducted by the Makana Municipality were irrelevant as name changes were the exclusive mandate of the ECPGNC. The latter statement flies in the face of the SCA Judgment on the Louis Trichardt/Machado issue as cited above.

SUMMARY OF COMMENTS/OBJECTIONS

The comments/objections to the proposed name change are:

  1. That the latest “process” of the ECPGNC was conducted independently of the local authority as the municipal community representative.  It comprised a single meeting attended by fewer than 100 persons and did not constitute adequate public consultation as required by the relevant guidelines and legislation and also fails to meet the threshold for adequate public consultation as set down by the SCA in the case concerning the name change of Louis Trichardt to Machado as cited above;
  2. That the latest “process” of the ECPGNC had no regard to the outcome of the previous three public consultation processes conducted on the issue or to the submissions made to the Makana Municipality’s Naming Task Team in that connection;
  3. That the applications for the proposed name change were submitted to the ECPGNC by officials of the Eastern Cape Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts & Culture; contradictions regarding whether the basis of the proposed name change was historical or that the current name of Grahamstown is offensive; the ECGPNC’s failure and/or refusal to respond adequately or at all regarding enquiries in connection with its “process” and whether or not it would have cogniscance of the outcome of the previous three processes;
  4. That the ECPGNC has been biased in its approach to the issue of Grahamstown’s name as well as the colonial names of other Eastern Cape towns and has pursued a predetermined outcome in relation thereto which does not properly take into account the views of the affected community as expressed in the previous three processes on the issue.

CONCLUSION

There is no doubt that if the issue of Grahamstown’s name was approached objectively and impartially by the ECPGNC, as it ought to be, it would be clear to the ECGPNC that it is not the wish of the majority of the affected community or of those beyond Grahamstown with an interest in the matter that the name Grahamstown should be changed.

Finally, it requires to be pointed out that the stance of the ECPGNC on the issue is inconsistent, incompatible and in conflict with a fundamental principle and guideline on name changes as contained in the Handbook of the South African Geographic Names Committee, namely that:

“Geographical names are part of the historical, cultural and linguistic heritage of the nation, which it is more desirable to preserve than destroy.”

The words of the Preamble to the South African Constitution are also apposite in this context:  “We, the people of South Africa…Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.”

Our diversity should also be reflected in our place names.

SUBMITTED BY:

(Adv) J C McConnachie  & (Mr) S Ndumo

JOINT CO-ORDINATORS, KEEP GRAHAMSTOWN GRAHAMSTOWN (KGG)

“Makana + Grahamstown = Reconciliation/Rekonsiliasie/Luxolelwaniso”