Grahamstown name-change debate heats up on air


Strong and fiery statements turned up the heat at Radio Grahamstown on Wednesday during a debate about the Grahamstown name-change fiasco.

Strong and fiery statements turned up the heat at Radio Grahamstown on Wednesday during a debate about the Grahamstown name-change fiasco.

The battle featured Councillor Julia Wells, who is head of the name change committee, Advocate Loyiso Mpumlwana of the Eastern Cape Geographical Names Committee (ECGNC) and Advocate Jock McConnachie and Sigidla Ndumo of Keep Grahamstown Grahamstown (KGG).

Listen to part 1 of the show:

Listen to part 2 of the show:

Listen to part 3 of the show:

An insert was included of people on the streets expressing their different views on the topic. "There are so many things they should do in Grahamstown instead of changing the name. It would cost thousands or even millions," one resident said.

Another said: "I can see why a lot people living in this town do not want to live in a town with the name of a man who displaced and murdered and stole cattle."

Many e-mails, Facebook messages and SMS comments voiced the benefits of the change such as claiming back the community's dignity from the reign of a brutal commander, while others expressed that the money should be spent on other important service delivery issues.

Wells said that the cost of changing names is absolutely minuscule compared to other basic forms of service delivery and it wouldn't take anything away from any service. She said the cost to the municipality would only be changing a few signs.

Wells said that they came up with a clear conclusion of the Grahamstown name which arose from their public participation process which presented the issues and different views of the subject. "The overwhelming response is that it is offensive, so we do take that as a fair reading of the feelings of the community."

McConnachie expressed that he had a strong issue with that statement. "The outcome of the process was not overwhelmingly in favour of the change," he said. "If that was the outcome, why has the Makana Municipality waited two years to pronounce the outcome of that process if it was in favour of the name change."

Wells responded by saying that the delay was due to the change of political leadership and the process. Committee chairperson, Advocate Loyiso Mpumlwana, came into the debate and criticised the opinion poll conducted by the Institute for Social & Economic Research at Rhodes University. He said it was not right to ask people if they preferred the name change or a house. "It's like asking people if you prefer to eat or change the name. Everybody wants to eat, it doesn't mean that they don't want also to change the name."

He said the name Colonel Graham is not just offensive to the people of Grahamstown, but to the whole country." He said the man was a butcher and the name surely must be offensive. McConnachie replied by saying: "I am very glad that he has shown his true colours because in the Dispatch of [Friday] 22 October this year, he said how impartial he was on the issue and he is open to everybody's views. Now we clearly know that he is not impartial. In fact the Makana Municipality has been doing the ECGNC'S bidding from the beginning."

McConnachie said that they are not interested in people's views on the subject as they have already made up their own minds. The host of the debate, Thembeni Plaatjie, said it had been a great debate and he could sense the tension in the room from the participants' responses.

"There was a little bit of tension initially when we were arranging this as they were not keen to be in the same room, but ultimately we got them together and all in all, it was a civil debate." 

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