Sunday World (South Africa)

No name is sacrosanct, not even Joburg

Art of naming, renaming debate held at TUT

- By Phumla Mkize phumla@sundayworl­

Solomon Mahlangu and Steve Biko. Gqeberha and Johannesbu­rg. Mathangets­hitshi Junior Secondary School and Khalambazo township.

These are some of the names that took centre stage during a two-hour discussion on “the art of naming and renaming, and its critical role in the transforma­tion agenda” of South Africa.

The discussion was hosted by the Tshwane University of Technology, as it unveiled the new name of its administra­tion hub at its Pretoria Campus.

No name is sacrosanct, including the name of the campus on which the discussion was held, with some students questionin­g the rationale behind calling campuses by their location and the reason the administra­tion hub with a neutral name was prioritise­d over student residences bearing colonial names.

Author and children’s literature specialist Elinor Sisulu was one of the panel speakers. Her husband and former national assembly speaker Max Sisulu joined the university’s management, led by principal and vice- chancellor Professor Tinyiko Maluleke, academics, students, alumni, and labour representa­tives for the discussion at Dinokeng Building, formerly Building 21.

Dr Tebogo Rakgogo, a lecturer in applied languages with a PHD in onomastics, set the cat among pigeons when he pointed out some contradict­ions in South Africa’s naming and renaming project, which he warned may be counterpro­ductive to the decolonisa­tion and transforma­tion agenda.

“One of the issues that were severely affected by colonisati­on in this country is proper names. Some names were changed simply because colonisers struggled with their pronunciat­ion,” he said giving the example of Tsaneng, still known as Tzaneen.

Rakgogo, a board member of the Pan South African Language Board, said the names of struggle icons such as Biko and Mahlangu were problemati­c.

“There are those who postulate that Mahlangu did not prefer the name Solomon, but Kalushi and as part of transformi­ng and decolonisi­ng, the South African higher education sector needs to have a conversati­on about this. In Pretoria Central there’s the Steve Biko Academic Hospital or Steve Biko Road, but his first name was Bantu,” he said.

Rakgogo said with the high rate of gender-based violence, there was a need to examine the names of townships, adding that some names were vulgar, such as Ingquza in Eastern Cape. “We also have a responsibi­lity to address some of the names that are offensive and derogatory to women. One of the high schools in Kwazulu-natal is called Mathangets­hitshi, meaning thighs of a virgin. You have Mshayazafe [beat him/her to death],” he said.

Sisulu warned against naming spaces and places after politician­s who are still alive.

“You have to go beyond the name and make the place live up to the name. Author Sindiwe Magona always says when ‘I die I don’t want anything named after me. Just leave my name alone. [You’ll] name a school after me and that school is neglected, and the children there do not learn.

“Like Chris Hani-baragwanat­h Hospital, would you want to step into that hospital and be happy that it is named after you?” she asked.

“The point of departure is to deal with Johannesbu­rg, Cape Town, we still have your untouchabl­e cities.

“If Port Elizabeth can be renamed to Gqeberha why is Joburg untouchabl­e?”

Prof Mashupye Maserumule, the executive dean of the faculty of humanities, who was facilitati­ng the discussion, said the trend was to write biography and autobiogra­phy.

“We should go beyond that. Let’s theorise the characters of these people so that they can be the mainstream of our teaching in our lecture halls.”

 ?? ?? Students perform at the unveiling of the new name of the Tshwane University of Technology’s administra­tion hub.
Students perform at the unveiling of the new name of the Tshwane University of Technology’s administra­tion hub.

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