By Siyabonga Maphumulo  

The team of officials sifting through public comments on the proposed renaming of streets and buildings in eThekwini say they are making headway. Led by Siyabonga Mngadi, Head of the municipality's Corporate Geographic Information Systems Department, and city officials including City Manager Michael Sutcliffe, the team is faced with the unenviable task of going through more than 12 000 comments and objections on the new proposed names for streets and buildings.

Mngadi said although comments and objections had been coming in slowly at first, the pace changed towards last Friday's cut-off date. "At first we received about 300 comments a day but the number rose to about 2 000 faxes a day and five emails in the last three days before the cut-off date," Mngadi said. Of the 12 000 comments analysed earlier this week, only about 500 objections were to specific names; the rest related to the principle of renaming. "We have had about 20 new name recommendations, but this would be dealt with by the Masakhane, Grants-in-Aid, Non racism, Non sexism and Non discrimination committee," Mngadi said.

Mngadi said the team had received thousands of objections and petitions from DA and IFP supporters.  Eric Apelgren, who heads the municipality's International Relations Department, and who is part of the team, said objections to specific street names would be sent to the Masakhane committee. The balance, which were against the principle of renaming,  would be sent to the city manager who would then compile a report to be presented at the next full council meeting.

"We will have those specific objections to road names and those from objectors to the principle of renaming," he said. Sutcliffe dismissed claims by opposition parties that the renaming process was sympathetic to the ANC. He said the public had been invited to provide specific comments in support of or against the proposed names.

He said that process was handled by multi-party committee had been agreed upon by all parties at council earlier this year.  "Given that council unanimously accepted that some streets would be renamed there little point in members of public simply sending in general complaints thatcomplaints that they don't want streets renamed. "The council has accepted that some streets would be renamed and it is unlikely that council would rescind that decision," Apelgren said.

The DA and the IFP have been vociferous in their opposition to the renaming process, citing flaws in the way the process was being handled and saying it was a fait accompli. Both parties formed a temporary alliance on Worker's Day when they marched through the city in protestof the renaming exercise.

The city council's Executive Committee has since instructed the city manager to compile a report on what disciplinary action would be taken against the rogue elements in the march after it turned chaotic. A meeting due to have taken place this week between national cabinet ministers and city leaders in connection with the renamings has been postponed.