The Politics of Politics

By Gugu Mhlungu

Grahamstown mayor Phumelele Kate did not honestly think he could say whether the proposed name change costs 2c or R100m it would go ahead nonetheless, and not piss someone or some people off. He most certainly pissed me off.To even dare make the very flawed comparison between 2c and R100m in what could easily be South Africa’s most poorly serviced province is the benchmark of insensitivity. How, I ask, is Kate hoping that iRhini will feed, clothe, educate and work for the people of former Grahamstown? Perhaps R100m is expendable income to him, but it is not so disposable to a million Eastern Cape children. Last year the Eastern Cape government called for tenders to provide food for its school going children as part of a feeding scheme. Wracked with dubious manufacturers of dodgy peanut butter and disappearing-but-never-used-for- their-intended-purpose funds, the feeding scheme soon collapsed. R100m had gone missing. The question is not, who dunnit, but where- is- it and what are the children eating now? R100m might have saved the feeding scheme or paid a few teachers better more. A R100m is 100 RDP houses that can actually withstand the elements. A R100m is a helluva lot of money.I realise that some of you may say that our own President endorses the name change and I knowledge that he has at two national occasions mentioned the inappropriateness of the name Grahamstown. But need I remind you that our President is a macroeconomist: a man that deals in big numbers such as GDPs and the third world debt and all of which he has worked hard, in his two terms, to make look good. However, being focused on big numbers means that you forget the little man, and woman and child regardless of colour and instead will spend R1bn on changing Pretoria to Tshwane.I am neither for, nor against the name change, that’s not the issue here. I am vehemently against the manner in which the name changes are detracting from the real issues of service delivery and working provincial and national structures. Perhaps a huge shortcoming on my part, but nor do I care for colonial legacies and nation building. You cannot build a nation when people do not have their basic socio-economic rights fulfilled. Prove that name changes alleviate poverty and enrich the lives of the millions of South Africans scraping together an existence in our ‘free’ society, that gives them the freedom to starve, then I’m in full support of name changes. Don’t however patronise those affected by poverty and the effects of colonialism and Apartheid and say you are changing the names to have them represented, when they’ve been poor since Apartheid. Inefficiency by any other name is still inefficiency. Money talks and it is such a huge pity that fools do too. And a fool and his money are soon parted.


13 Responses to The Politics of Politics

  1. mbuzobuciko says:

    An opinion piece or a column is not a platform to lambast and yell at the officials about what you perceive as being political morally right or maybe I’m journalistically backward. Your piece focuses more on negative aspects. To reply to the issue of costs that will be incurred… history and heritage has no monetary value so Mr Kate was on point when he said “I don’t care even if it cost two rand or R100 million” its TWO RANDS not TWO CENTS…. so please get your facts right ms journalist. As for you and your adored president “A man that deals in big numbers such as GDPs and the third world debt and all of which he has worked hard, in his two terms, to make look good”…at whose expense? Isn’t the name representing the same people that Mbeki disadvantages by refusing the rollout of the ARV’s. We all know that many citizens are not able to apply for the social grants because the home affairs department has turned into Mickey Mouse or quick money making scheme and still the honoured Mr Mbeki is turning a blind eye to the matter. Next time try to be broader, investigate and have time for your pieces, we are tired of malicious report of our so called “political analyst”

    Coming back to the matter, renaming the town from Grahamstown to iRhini will symbolise the transformation from the dark era of apartheid and injustice deeds to the present time of political freedom and honour our fallen brothers and sisters who died in the struggle for liberation. I strongly believe that name changing should be done in a way that will benefit the majority inhabitants of the country, well in this matter, Grahamstown….ooops!the city of saints coz I don’t know who Sir colonel graham is. The name should represent and serve as a form of identity, it must not represent individual so iRhini is the proper name for this town because most of its occupiers are African descendents, to be specific…amaXhosa

    This name changing was supposed to be done decades ago because it was, as it is even now, disturbing and humiliating to have names like these. The town has been referred to as iRhini for many years by its native citizens so I don’t understand this fuss and raging.

    Thumbs up for iRhini.

  2. Mzo says:

    My sister you say that you are neither for nor against the name change. But it is clear that your views are against the name change. If you are really neutral, you should provide weaknesses of both sides. Instead, you spectacularly attack Phumelelo Kate’s suggestion that the name should be changed. As someone who was born and raised in this town, let me tell you that I don’t identify with the name “Grahamstown”. In fact the names such “Rhodes,” “Settlers Hospital” and “Settlers Monument” are symbols of colonialism. These names are an honour to people who are responsible for poverty, crime and racism.

    People are quick to employ cheap arguments such as “Is the name change going to end poverty?” Or “The money should be used to fight crime.” We don’t need outsiders to come and tell us that the money should be used to improve the lives of those who stay in Joza. Do they know how Joza is today compared to 1993? Improved. We live in Joza and we see the improvement. Changing the name is a step towards erasing apartheid and colonial legacy. Those who don’t care about apartheid and colonial legacies are the same people who benefited from them or they didn’t get affected negatively. At least changing “Grahamstown” to iRhini will cost MONEY, compared to the costs that came with “Grahamstown”—HUMAN LIVES AND HUMAN DIGNITY.

  3. MK says:

    Hangwi please claim back your column, because these new writers are just writing rubbish!!!We used to read quality stuff from this column, but what we are now reading is useless opinions. My sister, don’t insult us the locals, Colonel Graham was a butcher and I believe that you are the only black, South African opposing the name change process.

  4. MAWANDE says:


  5. devalee says:

    The Activate blog is intended as a forum for discussion concerning the articles produced by the paper. Any form of personal attack is not condusive to the function of this blog. Please send any comments on the writer in question to them personally, as this space is designated for discussion of content only, not opinions on the writer that bear no relevance to the article.

    Deva Lee
    Web Editor

  6. Gugu Mhlungu says:

    I ask you all to go back and read the column and see what it is I am writing against. I am against weak provincial leadership that prioritises costly name changes over directing the funds towards poverty eradication and other services(perhaps a functioning school feeding scheme??). mbuzobuciko- You assume Mbeki is “adored” by me and come off very short(again read my article) because I think macroeconomic policies benefit those that are already advantaged while widening the cleft between rich and poor. In fact, I have a very strong dislike with big numbers (GDPs etc) because they mean nothing to the layman- a point I make in the article. Change the name, but don’t dismiss the huge financial implications. It is in fact 2c and not two rands and I refer you to this link so you can see I aso have my facts straight,,2-7-12_2196102,00.html.

    I do not claim to be a political analyst, and to my understanding no one contributing to this column has. I am a a very agrieved and perplexed citizen, concerned by the use of name changes as a smoke screen and diversion from the real issues of poor leadership, bloated bureacracies and a gross lack of accountabiltyy which frankly leaves me cold. Finally, you say I am focused on the negatives, i beg you to provide on a positive thing the municipality has done in past 6 months at a grassroots level and with the potential of having a positive long term effect on the impoverished masses. In closing, I know Graham was a butcher, much the same way Rhodes was, but who is holding our current accountable for their failures and shortcomings? Instead you are quick to jump to their defence, validating their inefficiency and keeping them in power.

  7. Mzo says:

    My sister I have read your column more than one time. Anyway, let me give you positive things brought by the municipality in the last six months. Firstly, in Extension 7 we didn’t have tarred roads for more than 15 years. Today “operation fak’itha” is up and running. Secondly, we have been using buckets for the rest of our lives. Today, flushing toilets are in place.

    I am one of the people who have been critical of the municipality and one of my criticisms has been based on the slow pace with regards to the name change. In all, name changes should go hand in hand with other services. The process should not be undermined because those who benefited from apartheid and colonialism say name changes will not end poverty. We can’t afford to undermine our Heritage by embracing the butchers and racists. We substituting the Eurocentric history with the Afrocentric one.

  8. Lybon says:

    My sister name changes has got nothing to do with poverty and I also believe that name changing is also part of service delivery. My sister, get your facts right, at extension seven we saw the operation ‘f’akitha’, building flushing toilets and a tire road is also under process. In addition, two weeks ago there were people travelling around in Hlalani and other areas cleaning the places and there were also people in Vukani location fixing the RDP’s which had problems. I believe this will be enough as you requested us to tell you positive things that the municipality has done in last six months.

    “Inefficiency by any other name is still inefficiency”. But we are claiming back our land or pride of being South Africans. The apartheid government changed names, for example, Musina to Messina in Limpopo, but there was no service delivery, so why not the new government does the same thing. Majority of South Africans, particularly poor people don’t have any problems with name changes, but the minority “Middle class” keeps on complaining about the fact that name changes will cause harm in tourism. My problem is our grandparents struggled for decades to pronounce English names, but nothing was done, now white people or tourists will struggle with African names is a problem. So this means that, because we have got nothing to contribute to the economy, we don’t have a say. I read something in another newspaper, “the government must stop wasting money in name changes and use it to stop crime”. What crime? A lot of articles about crime happens in town, so this people are concerned about town.

    Even if name changes won’t help to alleviate poverty, we want this country to be truly African, nothing else.

  9. mbuzobuciko says:

    I seriously fail to understand this whole fuss about the name changing. You cannot equate the transformation of our country to costs. The point that it will cost taxpayers money that’s so irrelevant because it’s white people and middle class who are busy making this noise…according to them “A name change will cost ratepayers and taxpayers millions and will affect the marketing of the town because tourist agencies would have to sensitise tourists to the new name” this totally proves that all they care about is the colonial legacy and economical gain at the expense of African Heritage. When it comes to transformation many whites and middle class may talk about it, but very little is done by them to live it……..iRhini is iRhini qha qwaba ke.

  10. Duncan says:

    The name is Mpumelelo Kate. It is not only embarassing, but also insulting to Journalism when a Journalism student gets the spelling wrong. Lets love what we write and stop writing because we have to.

    The name change debate, it is about time we give the land back to its original owners. What is wrong with African being named after Africans? In case some people dont know, naming the land after its original owners is the very essence of African Renaissaince.

    The writer of this article is one of those charlatans who claim to be custodians of African Renaissance but refuse Umqomboti (African beer) entrance into parliament while glorifying Scotch Whisky.

    Whoever is in charge of giving people columns should think twice before giving it to someone. Azwi, take back your column.

  11. Mzo says:

    Duncan the mayor’s name is Phumelelo Kate, not Mpumelelo.

  12. nd says:

    let it go
    nothing wrong with africans using their african names on their cities and towns. like it or not….be prepare for australia… if you like grahamstown.

  13. NEVON says:

    New york city,was formerly known as NEW AMSTERDAM.
    ATLANTA was formerly known as “MARTHASVILLE”after a former governor’s daughter,before that it was named “TERMINUS”because it was situated at the end of a railroad.
    today,it is known by its third and final name,”ATLANTA. how much did it cost to all these changes? COST IS NOT THE PROBLEM,you people”european population” just only oposing the use of pre-COLONIAL NAMES on the cities b coz you have problem to pronounce them correctly. BUT THIS AFRICA………..LIKE IT or NOT

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