THE renaming of Grahamstown has been debated by members of the public.
India is one of many countries that went through name changes after the end of the British colonial rule in 1947, with many city and place names changed to suit the new rule as informed by the people. South Africa will not be the first and I imagine not the last to undertake this process.
Does it make sense to businessmen and women to be associated with such a name as that of Col John Graham, after whom the city is named? Does it mean everyone born, living, married and working in Grahamstown is proud to be associated with the name Graham, a former soldier who butchered innocent people?
Are we not inculcating a personality cult by giving a diverse city like eRhini a name rooted in a colonial racial legacy?
This question must be answered by all of us, obviously with the assistance of leading academics and many others in leadership roles.
History tells us that the occupation of the land and the area was as a result of colonial dispossession by a white minority from indigenous people. Many indigenous men and women were driven off the land by Graham and his army.
The military history and the basis for the naming of the city have got to be discussed by all people and leaders in the city. In keeping this name does it mean that military rule must be supreme at the expense of civilian and democratic expression by the majority of the people?
The present outlook of South Africa must disown the history we cannot be proud of.
In telling the youth we must expose the truth, but such truth cannot still define our present and future.
The patience and understanding in debating the renaming of the city must not delay the need to transform the colonial apartheid legacy. Colonialism left a legacy of pain for many people, blacks and African in particular, who constitute the majority in the city and the country as whole. Apartheid excluded blacks and Africans in particular, and denied them not only socio- economic rights but custom and cultural practices. Their identity, including heritage and names of objects and places, were taken away from them in a very dehumanising manner.
The ushering in of the new democracy 18 years ago brought expectations that all the colonial and apartheid practices would be reversed with majority rule. The renaming of the city has to be looked at in a way that will have the interests of the city at heart.
The renaming of the city will constitute a small but significant part in the lives of those who were historically oppressed and suffered. The keeping of the name Grahamstown is not in good spirit with the new political dispensation, reconciliation and constitutional vision.
Education about the history of Grahamstown without distortion must be done by credible people and institutions. The agreement on a new name must reflect common history, shared present life and wealth by all, and a common purpose future for everyone.
Chumani Ngubohlanga Gqeke, provincial organiser, Samwu, Grahamstown