A year in Grahamstown and loving it more every day.

Grahamstown is now “officially” Makhanda following Minister Mthethwa’s pronouncement earlier this week. Highly likely a temporary name-change. Strong sense that a legal challenge (based on the hopelessly flawed process) will be mounted. All a crying shame. Divisive rather than reconciliatory.

I can’t fathom possible rationale – beyond the obvious, vulgar, racist, electioneering tactics – for this rushed name-change. Symbolic reparation, he says. Knock me down with a warrior’s feather. Wretched politicians. Little twists, blatant lies.

“More than 300 objections”, he says. Well, he could have said, “More than 10,000 objections” and the statement would be equally true. Fact is the KGG’s objection was on behalf of 10,000 and all 10,000 were printed and sent to the Minister.

The press release states that letters objecting to the name change have been acknowledged by the Minister. I have not received such acknowledgment. Anyway the press release then contradicts itself by stating, “As of Tuesday 2 October 2018, the Minister has formally began (sic) responding …”.

I look forward to his letter and given his “more than 300” framing, I trust it will be personalised and deal with the specific objections raised and my recommendations.

The Minister employs a neat trick in switching use of words from “objection” to “complaint”. Same meaning he will argue but I did not “complain”, I objected and that is the word in law. A complaint is a moan, and that is apparently what pesky white people do. Easy politics. The Ministers press release and reported comments are riddled with these cheap political tricks.

Another I particularly enjoyed is his reference to “those who pushed for the name change.” Pray share, Mr Minister. Who are these people? They should come forward and participate in Mayor Gaga’s proposed consultation process. Perhaps inconvenient for them as I understand they are a couple of employees of the Buffalo City municipality.

I refer to Grocott’s Mail 4 Oct. “Makana Mayor Nomhle Gaga has welcomed the change of the city’s name from Grahamstown to Makhanda and says the municipality will conduct public consultations to unite residents around it.”

Two of Grahamstown’s legal brains commented on Facebook as follows.

Advocate Jock McConnachie. “The Mayor should know that the name change is not legal for a number of reasons, one being that the Supreme Court of Appeal has ruled that name changes are primarily a matter for the affected local community and requires a decision by the local authority concerned. This name change did not follow a thorough public consultation process conducted by the local municipality as required and our municipality was not even involved. Grahamstown is still Grahamstown until a court of law declares it otherwise.”

Advocate Izak Smuts. “Can someone advise the mayor that consultation should precede the decision, not follow it.”

The Minister has fashioned a Makhanda spear for his own back. I’ll put money on a negative outcome for him in court and an “official” revision to the name Grahamstown.

Befuddles the mind. And what do we as residents, business people and social activists do in the interim? I have no issue (aside from the flawed process) with “The Makhanda Project”. Art-work and branding ready but costly for all if one changes the signage and stationery this week only to change it back again later.

Shame on you, Mr Minister. You play so freely with people’s lives. How easy it would have been for you – or someone competent in the ANC – to make a real contribution to transformation. A package deal incorporating name change, infrastructural investment, and social upliftment. Those public consultations would have support from all. In fact, the mayor wouldn’t need them and could occupy her time more productively.

Looking forward to another great year in Grahamstown or
Makhanda or whatever we as a community decide to call our precious little city.

PS – Join me on a visit to the historic St Philips Church (1860) and the Egazini Battle Memorial (1819). Departing from The Highlander at 3pm sharp, Tuesday 9 October.
And then back at The Highlander at 5pm I’ll be hosting a discussion and sharing more about The Grahamstown Project. A status update and next steps in The Grahamstown Project’s collaborative efforts to achieve a high-functioning small city. RSVP for both events essential. 083 271 0279 or Graeme@TheGrahamstownProject.com


Before moving back to Grahamstown in Oct 2017, Graeme was a bank executive based in the big smoke and craziness of Joburg. He has 20 years’ experience in the Payments Industry. He is a Chartered Accountant, has a Masters in Management by Research (MMR) from Wits Business School, and attended an Advanced Management Programme (AMP) offered by INSEAD (The Business School for the World!) in France.  

Graeme is the founder of The Grahamstown Project. It’s simple. He says, “Grahamstown is a microcosm of South Africa. If we can’t get this place to function properly then the whole country is stuffed. Many of the troubles we experience as a country today have their roots here in Grahamstown. it is here where black and white people first engaged in conflict on the African continent. It is here where 9 wars of dispossession over 100 years took place and virtually destroyed the amaXhosa nation. But we are where we are. I don’t have a British passport and the boat-trip back to where my ancestors came from is exorbitantly expensive. Furthermore, this is my home. I am a son of Africa. We must work together to redress the injustices of the past and move as one into a brighter future.”

Graeme is an avid historian, writer, vlogger and public speaker. Like and follow the Facebook page. Join him on a tour. Contact him. He would love that.