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Government not counting the costs of name changes in South Africa

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    Nat Quinn
    The Department of Sport, Arts and Culture says it is not doing cost estimates of the impact of name changes in South Africa – as it tallies up over 100 such changes in the Eastern Cape alone.
    Responding to a written parliamentary Q&A this past week, the department was asked whether impact assessments were done on its latest name changes.
    In March, the department changed the official name of the town of Fort Beaufort to KwaMaqoma, while Somerset East is now KwaNojoli.
    In addition to the name changes for the towns, the department is also changing the name of Brooksnek village in the province to Ben Mbizweni.
    One of the biggest points of contention with name changes in South Africa is that they carry a cost to the fiscus while doing little to alleviate the pressures on the communities they represent.
    The ANC has argued in the past – to much controversy – that name changes helped with service delivery, saying that names that do not resonate with their communities impact the delivery of timeous services, like emergency services.
    While it is unclear whether this is the case, the changes do carry costs, particularly around signage. However, the department says that this does not factor into its assessments, as its work is part of a “budgeted mandate”.
    “A cost estimate was not done for name changes of Fort Beaufort, Somerset East and Brooksnek in the Easter Cape,” the department said.
    “All the work of both the Provincial Geographical Names and the South African Geographical Names is funded by departmental programmes as part of the allocation as per government mandate. There will be no impact on the fiscus through the work of both provincial and national geographical names support as this forms part of budgeted mandates,” it said.
    Echoing previous statements on the matter, the department said that name changes are handled through the communities they impact, and that public participation processes are held. The latest round of changes was communicated to the affected communities in October and November 2022, it said.
    “All public hearing meetings supported the three name changes,” it said.
    Former Sport, Arts and Culture minister Nathi Mthethwa said that, despite the negative reaction name changes get, they are part of expressing South Africa’s heritage, which remains a core strategy within the department.
    “This is our own way as a sector in bringing meaning to freedom. In ensuring that the many unearthed and untold stories are given the platform through the national oral history project that we support.
    “Through the geographical names project, we have also deliberately set the country on a path towards healing by changing names of towns and cities which have unsavoury colonial and apartheid connotations. In doing so, we have always sought to consult widely in ensuring that the affected communities are part of the name-change process,” he said.
    Mtethwa was shuffled out of cabinet in March, replaced by Zizi Kodwa.
    South Africa has seen several key name changes over the last few years, mainly concentrated in the Eastern Cape. Aside from the naming of new geographic features in KwaZulu-Natal, most of the changed names for towns and cities have been in the Eastern Cape.
    According to the department, 103 geographical name changes have taken place in the Eastern Cape since 2019.
    The cost carried by the department related to these name changes relates to public consultation notices and honoraria for committee and council sittings. These are budgeted for within government departments, it said.
    The last two years saw a host of significant name changes take place, including new names for Port Elizabeth (now Gqeberha), Cradock (now Nxuba) and Uitenhage (Kariega).


    source:Government not counting the costs of name changes in South Africa (businesstech.co.za)

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