PE, Uitenhage, King William’s Town name changes not final

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Since the recent gazetting of a Notice by the Minister of Sport, Arts & Culture, Mr Nathi Mthethwa, relating to the name change of Port Elizabeth to Gqeberha and other proposed name changes of places in the Eastern Cape including Uitenhage and King William’s Town, the impression has been given in the press, TV and radio, that the name changes are final. It is not the case and has led to the premature adoption the proposed new names.

To some extent the media cannot be blamed for conveying the wrong impression because of the deception created by the Notice as gazetted. The same tactic was employed in the case of the name change of Grahamstown/Makhanda and previous name changes such as that of Queenstown/Komani.  Having got away with it with those name changes, the tactic is now standard practice.

But the tactic of publishing a defective notice was laid bare in the case of the Grahamstown/Makhanda name change and our media should by now have been alerted to it particularly as the legality of the Grahamstown name change is still being challenged in the Grahamstown High Court where a Fulll Bench Appeal is due to be heard in April.

Before publishing incorrect and misleading information about the matter, our media should have checked the provisions of the applicable Act (S.10 of Act 118 of 1998) to ascertain whether its effect was final or not.

It is clear from the provisions of the Act that the effect of the Notice is that members of the public still have a month to object to all of the proposed name changes referred to in the Notice including those of Uitenhage/Kariega and King William’s Town/Qonce. The approval of such proposed names changes by the Minister is only an interim approval pending a final decision after he has considered any objections.

Confirmation that that is the case is also apparent from a statement issued by the Minister’s spokesperson as published on the Department’s website from which it is clear that the 30-day objection period is now open albeit that it is not stated in the Notice nor is any indication given of the address to which objections must be forwarded and the date by which they must be received. The omission of such information is part of the deception which the SA news media have fallen for previously and have now fallen for again and are helping to promote.

Objectors to the proposed name changes should also be aware that the Act obliges the Minister to “inform the complainant of the decision on the complaint and the reasons for the decision” before reaching a final decision and publishing a final notice. That is also something else which never happened in the case of the Grahamstown/Makhanda name change and which is a further basis on which the legality of the name change is being challenged.

Providing incorrect and misleading information to the public about the status of name changes is a serious matter which must be rectified immediately.  As in the case of the Grahamstown name change, the publication of a defective Notice by the Minister in respect of the proposed name changes, may be fatal with the result that any such proposed name change may be a nullity.

Much depends on next month’s ruling of the Grahamstown High Court

Jock McConnachie and Sigidla Ndumo, Joint Co-ordinators, Keep Grahamstown Grahamstown  (KGG)

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