Eastern Cape residents seeking information on name changes, including the renaming of several major towns in the province, will be hard-pressed to find any, as the Eastern Cape Provincial Geographical Names Committee (ECPGNC) has made it nearly impossible to contact them.
The committee must be called before the DSRAC portfolio committee to give an account of their work, and the Democratic Alliance will be pushing for transparency in the name change processes.
In February last year, Minister of Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, announced that there would be more name changes within the province to encourage the transformation agenda, and that the ECPGNC is managing the process.
However, there is a complete lack of transparency or adequate communication regarding the processes from the Council, or the Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture.
The ECPGNC does not have a website or platform where individuals can access information, find notices of public hearings, provide input, or even just find the names and contact information of the authorities they need to engage.
Furthermore, the lack of such a platform makes it extremely difficult to access reports or to scrutinise the work, if any, that they have done.
Last month, I wrote to the council’s chairperson, Zukile Jodwana, to request an update on the current name changes, and while an acknowledgement of receipt has been received, no answers have been forthcoming.
The request in the letter was clear. Failure to provide such information robs the people of this province of their right to contribute to the process.
We must avoid a repeat of what transpired in Gqeberha.
I have therefore written to the chairperson of the Sport, Recreation Arts and Culture portfolio committee to request that the ECPGNC be called to give an account of the work they are doing.
The renaming of places is an exercise that is likely to continue for a long time as South Africa continues to redefine itself. When this process was embarked upon, it was, first and foremost, to ensure that all South Africans felt included.
How can they feel included if they are not given the opportunity to have their voices heard? We must be mindful of procedural steps when introducing a name change.
The DA will continue to fight for our people to have a voice. We will not let officials, pushing their agenda, abuse bureaucratic processes to drown out the voices of the people.