Grahamstonians could not believe their eyes on Saturday morning when two groups one of British “soldiers” clad in the crimson uniforms of the early 1800’s and the other of Xhosa “warriors” in authentic battledress of the period complete with genuine spears and ox-hide shields, met on Church Square and paid their mutual respects to each other.

The enactment was an imaginary meeting between the Founder of Grahamstown, Col John Graham, and the Xhosa chief Ndlambe, almost 200 years after their battles over the Albany area (then known as the ‘Zuurveld’).

President Thabo Mbeki has on several occasions recently called for the name of Grahamstown to be changed, saying that Graham was a “butcher” of the Xhosa people. Following his lead, the Mayor of Grahamstown, Mr Phumelelo Kate, has also said that the name “must go” and that it is only a question of finding an alternative name.

The imaginary meeting between the two frontier foes was staged by the Keep Grahamstown Grahamstown (KGG) Campaign, which after only one week since its official launch has already attracted nearly 1500 signed-up supporters.

Well-known Grahamstown archaeologist and local historian, Basil Mills, played the part of Col Graham, while long-time resident of Grahamstown, Mr Sigidla Ndumo, played that of Chief Ndlambe. Col Graham was flanked by two “soldiers” and Chief Ndlambe by two “warriors”.

The two groups approached each other from opposite ends of the Church Square, with the Colonel Graham contingent starting from the monument in upper High Street which marks the spot on which Graham decided to establish the military garrison from which Grahamstown developed.

‘Col Graham’, a Scot, was accompanied by a bagpiper, Ross Hoole of St Andrews College.

Apart from locals, black & white, who stopped to watch the enactment, it also caught the attention of a large busload of Belgian, Dutch and German tourists some of whom also signed in support of the KGG campaign.

One, a Mr E W Fortuin from Holland, commented that Europeans of different nationalities knew from their long history of wars over the centuries that it was better to build on history than to attempt to obliterate it from memory.

Speaking after the enactment, Ndumo (68), who together with local advocate Jock McConnachie is spearheading the campaign, said that it was intended to tie in with the KGG’s positive message that keeping the name Grahamstown with that of the Xhosa warrior and prophet, Makana, as the name of the greater municipality, was important for reconciliation.

Wearing his T-shirt and hat with the KGG logo, Ndumo said that the campaign is clearly succeeding in its aim to unify all Grahamstonians behind its slogan “Makana + Grahamstown = Reconciliation”.

“There is no need to substitute the name iRhini for Grahamstown or to find a completely different name”, Ndumo said.

“The two names are synonymous and should rather be given equal recognition as ‘Grahamstown/iRhini’; ‘iRhini/Grahamstown’, he said.

“Makana + Grahamstown = Reconciliation/Rekonsiliasie/Luxolelwaniso”