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.