Thu, 27 Sep, 2012
The ANC majority in the Makana Council has thrown out a DA proposal for a referendum on a plans to change the name of Grahamstown. DA leader in the council, Les Reynolds, supported by the other five councillors of his party made the proposal in a discussion on the contentious subject at a council meeting on Tuesday afternoon.
The name-change issue was one of several controversial items on a tightly packed agenda that included discussions on the mayor’s petrol allowance and the confidential disciplinary hearings of the suspended municipal manager, Ntombi Baart.
Reynolds said the name-change process should be divided into two parts: first there should be a referendum on whether there should be a name change at all. This would require residents to vote either yes, in favour of a name-change, or ‘no’ against the proposal.
He said if the majority vote in favour of a changing the name of Grahamstown, then a second phase should focus on what the name should be changed to.
Council Speaker, Rachel Madinda argued against the proposal and said that a consultative process had been undertaken several years ago to determine the sentiments of local residents. She said the results of these consultations had been published and the municipality had videos to show what happened during these community events.
The Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) did a survey of Grahamstown East households in November 2007 and found that 32% of respondents were in favour of a name change, 36% thought the name should remain, and 31% were of the opinion that the name change was not an important issue or less important than other issues.
Only 1% was undecided or did not respond to the question. Councillor Devon Waldick, representing the Mind party asked council why the submission from the Keep Grahamstown, Grahamstown campaign had not been included in the documentation supplied for the council meeting. There did not appear to be an answer to his question.
Nor was there any response to councillor Brian Fargher's written submission about the proper process of name-changing. He pointed out that any name-change is required by law to follow a policy and that Makana appeared to be without such a policy. DA councillor, Lena May, said she disagreed with the name-change process and described it as “revenge-taking”, provoking ANC Councillor, Mabhuti Matyumza, to object strongly.
Councillor Julia Wells, entrusted with heading up the name-change task team in 2007, and seen as a key figure in the debate since then, did not speak at all during Tuesday's discussion. Madinda concluded the heated discussion, saying a vote would have to be taken on whether the process should move ahead.
She formulated a motion that would see the process move ahead with a workshop for councillors and officials on the name-change issue. She did not say whether members of the public would be allowed to attend the workshop, which should be held within two weeks.
The Speaker suggested that workshop participants could view the video material of the consultations held in 2008, discuss the significance of the name-change and then chart a way forward. When Madinda put her motion to the Council, all 20 ANC councillors and the single Cope councillor voted in favour of it, while all six DA councillors rejected it.
After the vote, Madinda declared the issue closed but ANC Councillor, Pierre Ranchhod, stood up and attempted to talk about how the name-change debate had been carried in the press. Madinda shut him up before he could finish his sentence, saying, “We are not governed by the press, and we do not govern the press.”