The issue of Grahamstown’s name change has been ongoing since 2007 and it is therefore understandable that fatigue is setting in. This was reflected in the Grocott’s Mail’s inadequate coverage of the meeting of the South African Geographic Names Council (SAGNC) that was held in Grahamstown on 15 February. The meeting was only reported online and not in last week’s newspaper as expected, yet it’s a matter of considerable local importance.
Grocott’s Mail Online reported that according to the Chairperson of the SAGNC, Johnny Mahlaba, the SAGNC decided on 16 February to recommend to the Minister of Arts & Culture that Grahamstown’s name be changed to Makhanda. As members of Keep Grahamstown Grahamstown (KGG), we wish to bring to the attention of readers, that the SAGNC has since refused to provide written confirmation of that decision or any information relating to its deliberations on the matter from that day.
Those who were present at SAGNC’s meeting with objectors on 15 February will recall that a surprising statement was made by a member of the Eastern Cape Provincial Geographic Names Committee (ECPGNC) that the previous three public consultation processes on the name issue between 2007 and 2013 had nothing to do with renaming Grahamstown but with renaming the municipality. He also claimed that the ECPGNC was not involved in those processes. The KGG delivered proof to the SAGNC before its 16 February meeting that the statement was incorrect both regarding purpose of the processes and the involvement of the ECPGNC. Other than confirm that such information was received, the SAGNC has, however, refused “for professional reasons” to divulge whether or not the SAGNC accepted that the previous processes were to do with the name of Grahamstown and not the name of the municipality (which was Makana even before 2007) and that the ECPGNC was involved in those processes.
The KGG has now addressed correspondence directly to the Minister of Arts & Culture on this matter and also advised him about the problems experienced in attempting to communicate with the ECPGNC and the SAGNC.
Readers should also be aware that even in the event that the proposed name change of Grahamstown is gazetted by the Minister of Arts & Culture, that is not the end to the matter as there would still be 30 days to formally object.
Jock McConnachie, Sigidla Ndumo
Joint Co-ordinators, KGG.