NAME CHANGE UPDATE AS AT 20.2.2018
One thing we have come to expect in the battle to Keep Grahamstown Grahamstown since 2007 is to expect and prepare for the unexpected. We have lived by that watchword and as a result whenever those pushing for the name change have revived the matter with a new strategy we have been ready for them and we have been ahead of them in the game. In that way we saw off the first three name change processes that were conducted by the Makana Municipality in conjunction with the Eastern Cape Provincial Geographic Names Committee (ECPGNC) from 2007-2013 but we knew that it was only a matter of time before the issue raised its head again. And so it did in late 2015 when the ECPGNC decided that “enough was enough” and took matters into their own hands with a fast-track “process” which was not a process at all. After several false starts they eventually managed to hold a meeting on 30.1.16 in a single venue in a single part of Grahamstown attended by fewer than 100 people (estimates fluctuate at between 60-87). And, voila! the decision was taken that the name should be changed and that the new name should be Makhanda (the correct spelling of Makana, being the name of the municipality). To make it appear that everything was above board, they made a public call for objections and a number of people responded. KGG monitored the objection process and kept a record of those who submitted objections. We thought things would move fast at that stage but nearly two years went by before we received a response from the newly appointed ECPGNC under its new Chairperson, Ms Pumza Nazo, a Buffalo City Councillor and ardent anti-Colonial name campaigner. This has been the pattern since 2007: every newly appointed ECPGNC decides to have a fresh stab at changing Grahamstown’s name and then like the tortoise they withdraw their heads only to stick them out again when they think it’s safe to do so! Her response was to reject all of the objections, commenting in the process that they “smacked of racism”. That was less than three months ago and we knew that something else was about to happen. And so it did. First we got a tip off that the Minister of Arts & Culture was about to sign off on the recommendation that the name be changed after which we would see it Gazetted. So we wrote to the Minister telling him about all the machinations since 2007. Next thing on 30.1.17 we received an invitation from the SAGNC inviting us to a meeting with objectors on 15.2.17 for the purposes of “verifying certain facts”. We wrote to them asking what facts they wanted to “verify” but no information was forthcoming. All we got, three days before the meeting, was that “objectors would be given an opportunity to present their objections and to answer certain clarifying-seeking questions”. And the next day (16.2.18) the SAGNC would be meeting to decide whether to recommend whether or not the name should be changed. If ever there was an alarm bell this was it. Clearly the meeting of 15.2.18 was just to make it look as if the SAGNC were taking the objections seriously and on 16.2.18 they would make their recommendation. But, as usual, they made a number of mistakes: 1. they didn’t invite all of the objectors; 2. they gave short notice and scheduled the meeting for a time when not all objectors could attend; 3. when they explained what was going to happen at the meeting they only told some of the objectors. True to form! The meeting of 15.2.18 went ahead and there was a surprisingly good turnout of objectors (including the KGG) although nowhere near the number of people who had objected (at least 20 submitted apologies). The Chairperson of the SAGNC, Mr Johnny (“don’t call me Jon”) Mahlala, while claiming to be impartial on the matter, went on the attack, ridiculing objectors and trying to cow them into submission. The objectors were having none of it but by the end of the meeting the writing was on the wall and we knew exactly which way the SAGNC was going. No surprises. Then yesterday the call came from Sue MacLennan of the Grocott’s Mail: Johnny Mahlala had let the cat out of the bag that the SAGNC had decided to recommend to the Minister of Arts & Culture that the name be changed. So we immediately wrote to the Minister of Arts & Culture advising him about all of the deficiencies of the SAGNC’s meeting with objectors: the short notice etc. We are glad to report that we have already received a reply from the Minister’s office and the SAGNC have been called upon to explain. If Mr Johnny Mahlala and his SAGNC think that we are about to throw in the towel, they have another thing coming. We already have a legal team lined up who will be taking up the issue if and when the Minister gazettes that proposed name change. Of one thing we are convinced, Grahamstonians are not going to bow down on this issue.
Johnny Mahlala is quoted as saying that if anyone wants to challenge name changes in court, “we will keep them busy until they run out of money.” You have already learned a very expensive lesson over the issue of the renaming of Louis Trichardt, Mr Mahlala. Stand by to learn another expensive lesson. The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) has already spoken on the issue of what you have to do to prove that you have conducted a proper public consultation process. If you choose to ignore what the SCA said, you do so at your own peril and we are ready to take you on.
JOCK McCONNACHIE & SIGIDLA NDUMO,
Joint Co-ordinators, KGG.