The issue of naming the city’s various public infrastructure to be relevant to the current democratic dispensation has clearly sparked controversy. Ten new names of streets and buildings have already been officially put up as part of the first phase of the whole naming process.

The council is currently involved with the second phase. In terms of the second phase, the municipality ran adverts on March 9, 2007 in major local newspapers calling on the public to put forward proposals for the renaming of roads, streets, freeways, municipal buildings, community halls, parks and other public places within the municipal region. Posters were also placed in different Sizakala centres and libraries. The public was encouraged to either email, fax, post or even hand-deliver to these centres.

The closing date for submissions was the 30th March 2007, giving the public 21 days to engage with the municipality. And even after this closing date, a few submissions were also considered.

A total of 245 proposals were received. Some were disqualified because they failed to adhere to the set criteria, itself guided by the law. The disqualified included names of living persons, duplicate names and new proposals which did not refer to the old names.

The names that have been considered have been placed on adverts since this weekend, and will be open for public comment until 11th May 2007. For instance, five names have been suggested by the public to replace one old name. The comments to be provided by the public will guide the final decision.

So it is clear that the process is extensively consultative, transparent and therefore democratic. As a city, we have simply considered names given by the public and are again giving you the public another chance to decide on them.

The renaming of streets and other Council infrastructure is one of the transitional activities which we must all embrace moving forward in our democratic society. For this democracy to succeed, we need to change our mindset and understand other people’s point of view. Name changes are part of the reform that must take place in our country and in our city.

Concerns about money to be spent in replacing signs and letterheads is understood, but we must know that some of our people lost their lives fighting for this democracy that we now enjoy. Surely people cannot be blamed for honouring such heroes, some of whom did not live to see and enjoy the democracy they fought for.

The right to vote is not the only activity that signifies a liberated people, but includes the removal of all signs that undermine, and cause pain to, the majority of the people. There can be no lasting reconciliation if the majority still feels humiliated, frustrated and denigrated daily, calling or referring to names that carry a stigma with them.