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 Green light for new SA road names

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Nombre de messages : 8069
Localisation : Washington D.C.
Date d'inscription : 28/05/2005

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MessageGreen light for new SA road names

Green light for new SA road names
By Justin Pearce
BBC News, Johannesburg

Hendrik Verwoerd is the only South African leader whose name has spawned an adjective.

"Verwoerdian" refers to the most extreme kind of racial segregation that was implemented while he was prime minister in the 1960s.

But he and his National Party colleagues also lent their names to roads that still sprawl over Johannesburg's suburbs.

Twelve years into a democratic South Africa, it's only in the last few weeks that the Johannesburg Development Agency - the body tasked with improving the city - has started talking about changing them.

JDA development manager Ursula Ntsubane said the idea of changes had come up as part of a wider scheme to redevelop Randburg: a satellite municipality created north-west of Johannesburg during the 1950s and 1960s, when the National Party was consolidating its power and trying to make its mark on South African cities.

A recent study by the JDA found that the names of Hendrik Verwoerd and his predecessor, Hans Strijdom, were "offensive to the majority of South Africans".

I think a new name would be better because I can't pronounce Verwoerd
Zodwa Ndlovu, shop assistant
"We understand and respect the fact that the changing of streets and place names is a highly emotive issue," Ms Ntsubane said.

"However, the memories these names hold are not memories that build us as a nation."


But on the streets themselves, most people seemed not to care one way or the other.

Efraim Langena, who works on Hendrik Verwoerd Drive, sees the proposed change as a waste of money.

"I know Verwoerd was a man of apartheid. But it's a new South Africa now - people like him built their part of South Africa and in the new South Africa we can still have their names."

Zodwa Ndlovu who works in a furniture shop on Hendrik Verwoerd Drive, disagrees: "I think a new name would be better because I can't pronounce Verwoerd," she says.

She doesn't suggest an alternative, other than saying "a Zulu name would be better".

Ms Ntsubane believes that the costs of changing road signs will be offset by the benefits.

"Businesses are keen - this does such a lot for the marketing and branding of an area," she says.

Hendrik Verwoerd, in particular, could benefit from some redevelopment. Residential at its southern end, it passes through office parks and ends with a run-down strip of second-hand stores.

Hans Strijdom is forested with signs advertising drive-through fast food outlets, petrol stations and furniture warehouses.

Ms Ntsubane adds that some businesses situated on the corner of Verwoerd or Strijdom Drive have chosen to advertise their addresses as being on the adjacent street, rather than associate themselves with the apartheid leaders' names.

Until a few years ago, the two roads enjoyed the company of DF Malan Drive - named after Hans Strijdom's prime ministerial predecessor - until his name was removed in favour of anti-apartheid clergyman Beyers Naude. But that change was exceptional.


Ms Ntsubane says suggestions received by the JDA for new names include Govan Mbeki (an ANC leader and father of the current president), Alan Paton (an anti-apartheid novelist), and Protea (South Africa's national flower emblem).

"Others say we should stay away from politicians."

I'd go for a name that can unite people
Tina Ntsimane, Post Office official
Student Asnath Zitha, out shopping at a mall on Hans Strijdom Drive, suggests that "maybe they should call one of the roads Madiba Street as he's an icon" (Madiba is Nelson Mandela's clan name).

"But it's really fine as it is."

"It doesn't make much difference," adds fellow student Thata Motang.

Just off Hans Strijdom Drive is the Sisulu Hall, a public building named after the late ANC leader Walter Sisulu: a reminder that while being slow to change existing names, the Johannesburg authorities have been less shy about reflecting post-apartheid South Africa in new projects.

Tina Ntsimane, a Post Office official working on an employees' Aids awareness event at the hall, was keen on the idea of more changes.

"It's a good thing as long as people can recognise the new name easily, and they let us know in good time. And as long as it doesn't affect tax. For example here we are making awareness of HIV, and we need money for this."

She suggests that alternative names should not be political.

"I'd go for a name that can unite people - something like 'Ubuntu'" (a word meaning humanity in the Xhosa and Zulu languages.)

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2006/08/02 09:16:25 GMT


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