Wednesday, October 13, 2010

An interesting... honoured person

Lucas Mangope, ex President of Bophututswana. Image delightfully grabbed from

Lucas Mangope, is to be honoured by the North West University (NWU) as the student community voted in favour of the campus’ Lost City residence being renamed after him – according to City Press. The ANC, unsurprisingly, has a big issue with this: in case you’re not aware, Mangope was the big dog in Bophututswana; the president of a homeland that only the Apartheid government recognised as a legitimate country.

Yep, one of the homelands to which black South Africans were banished had a president who built loads of stuff but allegedly used the police to quieten those who protested against him, another nice link up with them Apartheid folks (and perhaps Mzilikazi Wa Afrika will attest to more current enforcement of this principle – I digress).

Saki Mofokeng, a co-ordinator for the ANC in the North West said that engagement with the university in this matter had been fruitless. Whatever that engagement might have been, it was hardly ever going to have made a huge impact as this was voted on by the SRC of North West University, and followed all university and democratic specifics.

It’s easy to see why the ANC don’t feel so good about the university honouring Mangope, and to a large extent I can empathise.

But sometimes, dear rulers, people love and worship those you don’t smaak so much, and in this day and age, the ANC can hardly bring up a defence of only maintaining acknowledgement of real heroes of The Struggle. If we’re not permitted a little memorial to Lucas Mangope, then why should we tolerate one of Cecil John Rhodes? Although Mangope and Rhodes both have dodgy human rights records, they made infrastructure strides – for god’s sake: Mangope was one of the founders of NWU.

A South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) press release accused the university council of being “impervious to the sensitivities of the people of South Africa in relation to the role played by Bantustans in the oppressive apartheid system” but is there a formally lodged complaint against the road named after a Nazi-sympathiser, Oswald Pirow Street, in Cape Town? Not far from Oswald Pirow is Barry Hertzog Road – a fan and benefiter of segregationist policies (although he wasn’t quite an Apartheid man as black South Africans weren’t as fully screwed like the NP was to ensure a few years later).

Indeed, there are purported plans to rid Cape Town of these names, but there were pretty much the same plans three years ago too. If an offensive name is that big of a deal, is anyone complaining a great deal about truly verified offensive names and the fact that we still have them?

Other ANC-ratified names like Peter Mokaba Stadium won’t sit well with some people (Dubul’ iBhunu isn’t exactly on the RSG playlist) and neither will the recently-named Andrew Zondo Road in Amanzimtoti (Zondo planted a bomb there which killed five people in 1985). Che Guevara Road certainly isn’t maintaining an agenda which comes up with names that enamour everyone now, is it?

The point is this: if the ANC can change names at their own discretion, through their own protocols, then so can North West University. If (Durban City Manager) Mike Sutcliffe wants to change names he can (although changing 100 in one go is ridiculous if you expect people to be able to get anywhere), but then so can Cape Town change Buitengracht to Helen Zille Avenue, the V&A Waterfront to Queen Elizabeth II & Bees Roux Waterfront and Camps Bay to Fight Back Beach Paradise, as long as it follows due political and legal process.

North West University has not put a toe out of line in this whole renaming structural process, and the ANC, by its own rules, should leave it alone. Government has used certain names in spite of opposition to them, and are merely on the receiving end of this exact principle now. We’ve abandoned the pretence of renaming according to those who are important and memorable to all South Africans, in spite of the decent beginnings of it in Joburg (DF Malan, Hans Strijdom and Hendrik Verwoerd became Beyers Naude, Malibongwe and Bram Fischer respectively).

Now, if this Mangope renaming does come though, who can guess what the next University of the Free State residence will be called...?

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