PLANS to splash out a further R250000 to find out if residents want to change Grahamstown’s colonial name have been slammed as a waste of money by opponents.
Following Makana mayor Zamuxolo Peter’s announcement that the controversial issue would be revived, Keep Grahamstown Grahamstown (KGG) leaders Jock McConnachie and Sigidla Ndumo said after five years of trying it was clear ANC officials would stop at nothing to change the name.
Although supporters like ANC councillor Julie Wells – who heads the long-standing Naming Task Team – claim most people favour change, McConnachie and Ndumo pointed out that nearly 5000 people had signed petitions calling for the present name to be retained, while there had only been a few submissions in support of the costly exercise.
"The public must also be reminded that councillor Wells went to extraordinary lengths during the previous process to attempt to manipulate a result in favour of changing the name of Grahamstown – shifting the goalposts on several occasions,” they said.
"KGG rejects the reopening of the name-change debate as a flagrant abuse and waste of public funds.”
They said the decision to revive the issue and allocate R250000 over six months was taken without any public consultation or council debate. McConnachie alleged that Wells was in cahoots with the Eastern Cape Geographic Names Committee (ECGNC) to change the name irrespective of public sentiment.
"The ANC decided long ago, before any process was undertaken and before there was any public consultation, that the name must be changed and they are not prepared to accept any different outcome.”
He said there was no constitutional imperative to change names – the only imperative was reconciliation.
The KGG has repeatedly said the aim of reconciliation is best achieved by keeping the names Makana and Grahamstown together as it indicates past conflicts have been put aside.
"Doing away with the name Grahamstown is retribution, not reconciliation,” McConnachie said.
Wells said efforts were being made to set up a meeting between KGG and Peter and others to see if some common understanding could be reached "to avert a war”.
She said she had only heard about the revival of the issue shortly before it was announced by Peter.
"It comes as no surprise, since the matter of removing all offensive names from towns and geographical places has been the ANC’s policy through its 100 years of struggle and was enshrined in the Constitution. It is a matter of the policy of a democratically elected government being carried out.”