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Last Updated: Saturday, 12 March, 2005, 12:52 GMT
Should names be Africanised?
South Africa is to change the name of its capital city, Pretoria, to Tshwane, as part of a move to make place names more African.

Pretoria was named after Andries Pretorius, a folk hero of the Afrikaner group, which set up apartheid. While Tshwane "We are the same", and was the name given to the area by early African groups.

The opposition Democratic Alliance, which has strong support among whites, said the 1.5 billion rand ($256m) the switch would cost would be better spent on improving services.

Do you think that Africanising names is a good idea? Does it promote reconciliation or reopen old wounds?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

The publicity associated with this change will be worth the money and let's hope that Tshwane lives up to it's name
Raymond Rudaizky, London UK
In South Africa, Pretoria was the "soul" home of apartheid. Under that oppressive regime a number of black people were hanged in Pretoria on a weekly basis and the event was hardly even noticed. I'm amazed that it has taken so long for this name change to Tshwane. The publicity associated with this change will be worth the money and let's hope that Tshwane lives up to it's name. It's a beautiful name for a beautiful city, hopefully now also having beautiful people.
Raymond Rudaizky, London UK

Other than outright killing someone, erasing one's identity is the worst crime against humanity. Imagine those Africans taken into slavery and having their identities banished. "Kunta Kinte" became "Smith" the plantation owner. That was a crime that went unpunished. What South Africa is doing should be commended. Maybe it is time to look at the map of Africa and eliminate (I know it is just symbolically) the colonial humiliation of the continent. Do away with such names as Thompson Falls, Victoria Falls, Sierra Leon, Johannesburg and many other reminders of colonial domination of a people. What about names we give to our kids? These changes are over due.
Akwanza, Florida, USA

I live in a nation that was named by the white masters from the days of slavery. Our city, towns and villages still have these names also. Does the change of a name really matter? It is the hearts and minds of the people that need to change.
John R Jacobs, Kingstown, St Vincent and The Grenadines

How can the government justify this ludicrous amount of money when people are starving and dying of Aids?
Lucy Surman, Newcastle, UK
How can the government justify this ludicrous amount of money when people are starving and dying of Aids in South Africa? Soon there won't be many young people remembering apartheid as the infections rates increase and more casualties are realised.
Lucy Surman, Newcastle, UK

Yes, it shows we are proud of who we are as Africans. I've never heard of any place outside Africa with an African name. Africa is the only home we have and can never be taken away from Africans, African pride should be reflected for the rest of the world to see and accept.
Serf Ones, Toronto, Canada

I lived in South Africa for most of my life. Anyone who lives there, or has been there recently, will instantly recognise that there are more fundamental, wide-sweeping problems that need urgent sorting out - rather than cities needing their names changed.
Glen Johnson, Glen Johnson, Didcot, UK

A society without a sense of language will find it difficult to be the masters of their destinies
William, Brooklyn, USA
Let me congratulate South Africa in its first steps to truly reclaim history. A society without a sense of language will find it difficult to be the masters of their destinies. Change the name of a city; take control of your lives. Supporters of apartheid spent billions ensuring white privilege, a paltry few millions spent to advertise this change does not come close to rectifying the crimes against humanity committed by whites against blacks.
William, Brooklyn, USA

It is appropriate to rename Pretoria Tshwane in order to have a break from the negative past and also to maintain our African identity. For Uganda, we had inscriptions like; "John Hannington Speek, the first man to discover the source of the Nile" (The Nile is the longest river in the world) irrespective of the fact that indigenous people had lived there and had known the Nile long before Speek came to claim the discovery.
Tusubira Jumke., Kampala, Uganda

I think it's a wonderful idea for changing some African places from foreign to native names, not only in South Africa.
Mokube Ewane, Maryland, US

This is welcomed news. Not only city names but also avoid the habit of naming our children non-African names. I was called Richard at birth and you would think I am English but thank God I am African. These are the relics of colonialism and should be wiped out.
Richard Tah, Cameroonian in USA

I think South Africans are on the right track by changing some of the names they feel they are incorrect or racial based.
B Ramabele, Gaborone, Botswana

If the apartheid regime spent billions of dollars in the last 300 years to maintain its oppression of the black South Africans, why not sacrifice a few million rands to correct centuries old injustice?
RomÓn , San JosÚ, Costa Rica

We have a number of African places that have been changed to something we could not understand, and has no meaning in English. For example Ezimbokodweni, Zulu meaning a place of stones was changed to Umbongintwini. So to us something like this is more important. It's good they are changing the name.
Bongani, Durban

There is something really special about cultural heritage in a world of change and diversity
Phebby, Zambian in the UK

I met someone in the UK who boasted of David Livingstone having discovered the mighty Victoria Falls and named it thus; a name that is pronounceable. What discovering of places is this the white settlers, colonialists and the like-minded keep boasting about, when these places existed before these people went there, and had native names, known by the locals┐ names, so-called unpronounceable by those who view other peoples languages unpalatable, except theirs.

Definitely, Mosi-oa-tunya, "the smoke that thunders" is the ideal, self descriptive name of our falls. There is something really special about cultural heritage in a world of change and diversity. Let South Africa do what they could have done about Pretoria's name, before all the invasive, intrusions into their territory, many, many years ago.
Phebby, Zambian in the UK

It doesn't matter whether its name changes or not - it's all in the mind
Wezi Phiri, UK

To some people the place will still remain Pretoria. It doesn't matter whether its name changes or not - it's all in the mind. In my home country Malawi the international airport has changed name from Kamuzu International to Lilongwe many times and so have other things which had the name of Malawi's president before democracy late Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda.

But I still come across people who refer to these places by the names they had known them for. As long as it doesn't cause any problem it doesn't matter what its called.
Wezi Phiri, UK

South Africa markets itself on being a rainbow nation honouring the fact that for better or worse the country has been shaped by a multitude of people from all racial groups. In moving forward I believe that there should be a balance between moving forward and remembering what has gone before.

While children are starving and HIV/Aids is spreading, this kind of political grandstanding should not be a priority. (Expat South African and proud!)
Suzy, Manchester, UK

The $256m spent on changing the name could have provided 45 million people in SA with $5.6m each. I wish politicians would do some math before making decisions.
Johan van der Watt, Hamilton, Bermuda

Having grown up experiencing apartheid, I agree with the notion of renaming old symbols of apartheid. However does the cost of marketing exceed the benefit? Renaming will not remove the old hurt and if you ask most of those directly affected, I believe that they will say that the money will be best spent elsewhere for now.
Kamlan Naidoo, Great Baddow, UK

If changing a name means that people who suffer the consequences of colonialism and racial oppression have some faith and pride in themselves restored, then this change of name is worth every last cent of that projected R1.5 billion.

For development to be successful, it has to take into account emotional and psychological factors alongside the physical needs of a populace.
Steven Savides, Boston, USA (formerly of Tshwane/Pretoria)

I can't help but wonder where it will all end
Jaco van der Merwe, London

I can fully understand why people want to change names; I also understood why we changed the names of our airports. However I can't help but wonder where it will all end. My high school was named after an Apartheid leader and still is believe it or not.

Are they focusing on changing the names of major areas and then tackling the institutions within? Let's be honest, if the socio and economic situations in certain areas were really improving, there would be less haste to change names.
Jaco van der Merwe, London, UK

Less we forget that the whites are Africans too. It doesn't matter where your ancestors came from.
Jeff Abbott, Throop, USA

During the recent past, names of many famous and old cities in India have been changed to give a nationalist overtone. Such changes have created a lot of confusion among foreigners and people of different parts of the country.
Dr RC Misra, Orly, France

From the UK, we can't possibly judge whether it is more appropriate to spend money on symbolic changes like this one or on delivering services. In fact, it doesn't really matter what we think: what matters is that democratically elected local councillors make a decision that reflects local people's priorities.

This is a good example of all sorts of problems with outsiders getting involved in local issues (for instance through international aid). Outsiders should not decide how funds should be spent: we should ensure that funding is linked to inclusive decision-making processes, so that it meets local people's needs.
Alex Jacobs, Oxford, UK

I have lived in the wonderful country of South Africa and continue to visit there. I am appalled at such a waste of money that could be better spent on supplying water and electricity to the thousands of homes still without either commodity, however this decision is in-line with a second rate government who are blinkered and believe that simply taking a way something put there by the old regime is a victory. It is about time they got their heads out of the sand and took a look at reality.
Andy Wilkins, Reno, NV

Change the crime rate first, then give everybody a job and with the spare cash rebuild. I don't think the poor are going to sleep better with a name change.
Duncan McIntosh, Paris, France

I am an African that believes that Africa as a whole needs to be re-born. Africa needs changes and new ideas to over-write our grandfather's meaning of life which has brought us all shame.
Kevin, Denmark (Nigerian)

It is high time all those names given to Africans cities, etc. by the colonists are changed to reflect African identities
Lisulo Lisulo, Lusaka, Zambia
This is welcome news. It is high time all those names given to Africans cities, etc. by the colonists are changed to reflect African identities. Change is coming although slowly, today is Pretoria being renamed Tshwane, tomorrow it will be the mighty Victoria falls being renamed Mosi-oa-Tunya (the smoke that thunders), and this would be good news to hear.
Lisulo Lisulo, Lusaka, Zambia

Blacks would certainly support a name change and whites would think the money could be better spent. Most South Africans could really care less about a name change and would yearn for an improvement in the services they currently receive from the government. My take on this issue is to change the name only if it is reminiscent of a figure who was actively involved in the institution and/or promotion of Apartheid. If not, spend the money on more relevant causes.
Kelechi Ogbuehi, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Whilst you can understand the idea of changing names of places to reflect the new status of the nation, is this really a pressing priority? The nation is gripped in an Aids crisis that is not equalled anywhere else, millions of South Africans living in temporary homes, and millions are without regular work. Is this money being used to make this name change money well spent...? I think not.
Gary Wallis, London

I seem to recall in history that English cities like London, Lincoln, Newcastle etc had Latin/Roman names and were changed in order to suit the climate at the time - the climate now is right to change names which are a baring of a brutal past to something that reflects the majority of the country.

After all South Africa is an African country not a European country and as such must adopt African names rather than keeping to the European ones that were imposed as a direct result of empire and oppression against African people. This name change now asserts the African population in South African taking pride in their racial identity and new found freedom
Dave, England

I'm an ex-pat South African, in fact I grew up in Pretoria. One of the biggest problems in SA between whites and blacks is that people keep on talking about us and them and not we! Changing the name of the most beautiful city in the world is just making the divide even bigger!
George Gildenhuys, London, UK

White South Africans have as much right to their cultural and historical heritage as the any other South African race group
Riaan Vermeulen, Oxford, UK
Africanising South African names is creating division rather than building bridges between white and black. The ANC is systematically removing all traces of European (white) history in South Africa through their name change policy. I agree with changes such as the renaming of the Hendrik Verwoerd Dam to the Gariep Dam, to remove offensive names and replace them with neutral names, acceptable to all race groups.

But I strongly disagree with the systematic renaming of all places named by white South Africans, as this is removing them from history. White South Africans have as much right to their cultural and historical heritage as the any other South African race group. Will the ANC start renaming traditional Zulu or Xhosa names such as Ulundi, Umtata or the King Goodwill Zwelitini Hospital?
Riaan Vermeulen, Oxford, UK

What's in a name? In my country that still has immense poverty, R1,5 billion [and the other money that would be used for changing other names] would go a long way to upgrading services across the land!
John Wilks, London, UK

The Afrikaner elite used and abused their indigenous compatriots for decades, and the name Pretoria is a symbol of that oppression. Why would this move be re-opening old wounds? Are South Africans supposed to forget the decades of injustice that took place in their country? It's only by reflecting on the uncomfortable truths of our history that we can avoid repeating the same mistakes.
Richard, London, UK

The urgency to change the name is placed by the colonial attachment which Pretoria holds. It is a positive development for the entire continent, and once successfully publicized will lead to African pride in their names.
Thubelihle Thebe, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Yes, because it signifies Africa is for African, not for those who came to rule the continent and dominate in every aspects.
Imail, Delhi

What's in a name! This money could be diverted elsewhere where it is much needed. I hope the Nigerian government is not thinking of changing Lagos to something else? By the way, does anyone know what Abuja means?
Ade, London

The emancipating effect of this name change on a community which endured 300 years of racial injustice is worth much much more than the 1.5 billion rand that is being spent on marketing it. Way to go South Africa.
Paul Nantulya, Cape Town, South Africa

As an expat South African - born in Johannesburg, a mere 30 miles from Pretoria - I wonder how far this city name changing will go. I agreed with changing airport names which were named after old Apartheid leaders. But Pretoria, as indeed with Johannesburg, is a derived name that already differs from the original.
Brandon Broll, London, UK

Kindly note that:
New Amsterdam became New York
The Gold Coast Colony became Ghana
Bechuanaland became Botswana
Peking became Beijing...
There is everything correct about Pretoria becoming Tshwane and, also,
Victoria Falls assuming its correct name!
Only yahoos and racial cretins will object. Get on with changing all incorrect names over the planet.
Lorenzo, Gaborone, Botswana

Africanising names is merely a political exercise, it has no benefit and it is money better spent. It also only reinforces the siege mentality of whites.
Dirk Reinecke, Pretoria, South Africa

This is step in the right direction. It makes people relate more to the new dispensation and put away the ghost of apartheid.
Enya Ameza, Lancaster, UK

Yes ma-man! Change the name. We need more African names, not Afrikaner names.
Ntuthu, Johannesburg

One wonders in a country so full of diversity and forgiveness that our efforts are not put into to ending poverty and ill-health, but to the waste of money simply for the sake of change. We look to the past as a guide to how to improve the future, through a name change we only show we have no respect for history and no pride in what we have achieved.
Geraint McCarthy, Cape Town, South Africa

I understand the wish of the South African people to want to change the name of Pretoria to something more in line with their history. It does however seem a massive amount of money to spend when there many people living in very poor conditions.
Philip Ager, Equatorial Guinea (UK expat)

A name change for Pretoria is definitely a positive move considering the origin of the name. Not all name changes are worth it.
Babs, Lagos, Nigeria

Given that there are nine official languages in South Africa, I wonder how acceptable the proposed name is to the other ethnic groups in the country. Furthermore, would the general public (as opposed to only political muscle-flexing politicians) not be better served by spending this vast sum of money on fighting crime and Aids?
Gavin Thomas, Selzach, Switzerland

There is nothing wrong with Africanising names of cities which are in Africa. Africa is African and should thus be seen and known as African. It's about time that we give our cities names that have some significance in the African context.
Katando, Windhoek, Namibia


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