More than 300 letters objecting to Grahamstown name change - Nathi Mthethwa

More than 300 letters objecting to Grahamstown's name change to that of Xhosa warrior, philosopher and prophet Makhanda have been received, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa said on Tuesday. 

"Most, if not all, have made [claims related to] 'lack of consultation', 'cost implications', [and] 'historical sentiments'," Mthethwa said in a statement. 

Mthethwa published the approval of the name change in Government Gazette No 41738 on June 29, after he received a recommendation from the South African Geographical Names Council (SAGNC).

However, he said most of the objections claimed that the publication was defective because it "did not state the fact that the public have one month to object [to] or complain [about to] the minister on his decision".  

READ: Grahamstown to be renamed Makhanda after Xhosa warrior

Grahamstown falls under the Makana Municipality in the Eastern Cape and it has a population of more than 60 000, according to the 2011 census. 

"It is heartening to know that South Africans understand that ours is a participatory democracy where they can raise objections and their "voices" [can] be heard. They have now made their voices heard in these letters, and all 332 letters will be read, acknowledged and responded to," Mthethwa said.

He added that it was common cause that notices relating to geographic name changes were not published in isolation but were meant to be read with the South African Geographical Names Act, 1998, Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, 2000 and the Constitution of South Africa.

Mthethwa added that he would refer each objection to the SAGNC for advice before an informed decision was made.

In June, the department said there had been calls for almost 20 years for the town's name to be changed.

"It is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that recommended that the renaming of geographic features be a form of 'symbolic reparation' to address an unjust past," Mthethwa said.