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Monday, 24 July, 2000, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
Megacities, new names

South Africa's capital could soon find itself at the centre of a new metropolis with a new name.

The Greater Pretoria Metropolitan Council is one of several municipal bodies taking advantage of a local government shake-up to put forward a new African name for the larger urban area around the city - the "megacity", as the idea has been dubbed.

The name, Tshwane, means "we are the same", and been used in the area since before the Afrikaner leader Andries Pretorius named a settlement after himself in the 19th century.

Planes over Pretoria
Pretoria will be one of the cities included in the Tshwane megacity
But the city at the heart of the metropolitan area will still be called Pretoria, Lukas van der Walt of the Metropolitan Council told the BBC.

The new name will apply to the newly-demarcated area, which includes Pretoria and other outlying areas which were previously under a separate administration.

Dissent

Mr van der Walt said the proposed new name would be put forward to the provincial government, which would then call for public comment before making the change official.

There have already been some dissenting voices, notably from Afrikaans speakers who wanted a more Afrikaans-sounding name for a city that was once a bastion of Afrikaner nationalism.

Johannesburg street scene
Greater Johannesburg might adopt the familiar name eGoli
Whatever new name is chosen - if any - it will be adopted in November, when elections take place for the new metropolitan council.

South Africa's largest metropolis, greater Johannesburg, is also thinking of a new name for the new political structure.

The hottest contender is eGoli, the Zulu name for the city, which is well-known to many South Africans as the name of a long-running television soap opera set in Johannesburg.

The city's Tswana name, Gauteng, has already been taken as the name of the province that includes both Johannesburg and Pretoria.

But one local newspaper survey revealed that 58% of respondents were happy for Johannesburg to stay Johannesburg.

'Nelson Mandela Metropole'

There are reports that the greater Port Elizabeth area is considering calling itself the Nelson Mandela Metropole once the new local goverment system comes into effect.

Durban beach and skyline
Durban - eThekwini could soon be official
Greater Durban is reported to be pondering eThekwini - a name already in common use among Zulu speakers.

Durban and Port Elizabeth were named respectively after a colonial governor, and the wife of another colonial governor.

But the mouthful of Port Elizabeth has long been simply "PE" to English-speakers, "Die Baai" (The Bay) to local Afrikaans-speakers, and "iBhayi" (derived from "Die Baai") to Xhosa-speakers.

South Africa has been slower than most African countries in changing placenames that reflect earlier rulers.

In Zimbabwe, colonial town names - with the notable exception of Victoria Falls - had disappeared within a few years of the coming of democracy.

Nelson Mandela
Mandela: Possible honour in Port Elizabeth
In South Africa there was talk of officially renaming Bloemfontein (Afrikaans for "spring of flowers") with its old Sotho name of Mangaung ("place of the cheetah") - but this plan was put on a back burner after objections from Afrikaner nationalists.

The redrawing of provincial boundaries in 1994 provided the opportunity for some name changes.

But apart from Gauteng, only the old Eastern Transvaal opted for an African name: Mpumalanga, meaning "sunrise".

And Cape Town has three official names reflecting the city's three official languages - in Afrikaans it's Kaapstad, and in Xhosa, iKapa.

The only outright change has been Verwoerdburg, whose association with apartheid ideologue Hendrik Verwoerd seemed particularly incongruous in a democratic society.

Verwoerdburg took on the name of Centurion, borrowed from the well-known nearby sports ground called Centurion Park.

Centurion is now one of the towns about to be gobbled up by greater Pretoria - or Tshwane.

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