The Rainbow Nation is changing names to its cities, towns, even airports in the Eastern Cape. The essence of this country not only stands with its natural beauty and its people, a big factor that has everyone talking lately are the languages spoken there.
Who is in charge of this change?
The South African Geographical Names Council (SAGNC) is the official government body that advises the executive branch of the central government (the Minister of Arts and Culture) on new geographical names as well as the changing of existing geographical names.
So why are they changing the names now?
Government Officials believe changing some of the country's apartheid-legacy names will help bring dignity to certain communities in South Africa. In 2020, Nathi Mthethwa, the Arts and Culture Minister, did an audit of offensive names. Also, many people agree with the changes since it's a great way to keep the indigenous names and languages of South Africa alive.
The Minister said that “there was a need for the name changes as this is part of a government programme to transform South Africa’s Heritage landscape. The names of places we live in reflect the identity and cultural heritage of the people of South Africa.” "Having English street names and buildings keep our colonizers' names and legacies alive. So step by step let's have a country that represents us," she added.
The latest name change that has everyone talking is the name change of the city of Port Elizabeth. Commonly abbreviated by many as PE, now it has a new name: Gqeberha. It is the Xhosa name for the Baakens River, which flows through the city.
Tell me more about South African languages
Xhosa is one of South Africa's official languages. Did you know that about 35 languages indigenous to South Africa are spoken in the Republic? 11 out of those are considered official languages. Xhosa being one of them. It is one of the few languages in the world that has a click sound.
The city's airport, previously known as The Port Elizabeth International Airport is now called Chief Dawin Stuurman International Airport. He was an activist and leader of the Khoi people, who fought colonists in the 19th century.
So far a total of 7 places' names have changed. This includes two cities, three towns and two airports. The question is... will there be more?