By this time next year, Port Elizabeth and East London may have disappeared off the map, with Ibhayi and Emonti their most likely new names.

This emerged at the geographical names provincial hearing which ended in East London yesterday.

But it also emerged that the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality had not even been contacted to see if they wished to participate in the name-change process. There are fears that agreements between the metro and Fifa could be severely compromised if a name change was enforced.

According to the chairman of the Eastern Cape Geographical Names Committee, Fumanekile Dyubhele, the names of the two cities had to change well in advance of the 2010 Soccer World Cup and would probably already be history by mid-2009.

Port Elizabeth and East London airports would also be renamed before the World Cup, but names were yet to be proposed.

“There is a pressing need for these four targeted names to change before 2010 and it has to be done quite well in advance so we can inform the international community to avoid confusion,” said Dyubhele.

“The name-change committee is an affiliate of the United Nations and if there is any name change in this country it gets communicated to the rest of the world.”

He said although Port Elizabeth and East London were on the list of 60 proposed name changes in the province, they were the only ones which had a deadline.

But Bay municipal manager Graham Richards said no invitation had been sent to his office asking the municipality to participate in the name-change process.

“With such a process, the (name-change) Act requires the public must have an adequate chance to express their views, and I would think the municipality would have a big part to play in the process,” he said, adding council had yet to adopt a view on whether or not there was a need to change the city‘s name.

The municipality has also had to negotiate with soccer body Fifa to change the name of the host city on their branding from Port Elizabeth to Nelson Mandela Bay, which, on merchandise, must now include the names of Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage and Despatch in smaller lettering.

“I hope they would also take that (Fifa requirement) into account (before changing the name),” Richards said.

Other possible name changes in the Eastern Cape include Grahamstown, which may become Rhini, Lady Frere (Cacadu), Queenstown (Komani or Nonesi), King William‘s Town (Qonce), Flagstaff (Siphaqeni), Fish River (Nxuba River) and Kei River (Nciba River).

Dyubhele said Port Elizabeth, which was named after the wife of 1820s British governor Sir Rufane Donkin, should change because the name “does not assist the current population”.

“Ibhayi, which comes from Algoabaai, is more neutral and geographical.”

And, although East London was “not offensive”, it was a duplication of the British capital.

Town names that would not be changed included Port Alfred and Bathurst.

Names taken from “colonisers”, or those misspelt or duplicated elsewhere in the world, are facing the chop.

Although it was not on the official list, there is a possibility that even the Coega Industrial Development Zone would have to be renamed.

“It should change to the Khoisan word Ngqurha, because that is what it is supposed to be.”

Mandela Bay municipal communications head Roland Williams said a logo for the 2010 World Cup had already been approved by Fifa and included the name Port Elizabeth.

“We are partners of Fifa and the composite logo reads Nelson Mandela Bay and underneath that it says Port Elizabeth.

“This is practical because Port Elizabeth is on the map and in atlases. This has been approved by Fifa and we are using it to market the 2010 Fifa World Cup.”

Williams refused to answer questions about how much had been spent on 2010 marketing merchandise bearing the approved logo.

Executive director of the Border-Kei Chamber of Business Les Holbrook said changing the names of Port Elizabeth and East London “was not a good thing”.

He said while the chamber accepted that offensive or disparaging names, or ones that had been incorrectly spelt, needed to change, neither East London nor Port Elizabeth fitted into these categories. “The cost implication of changing the names of Port Elizabeth and East London is millions and millions and they have no offensive connotations whatsoever.”

Holbrook said the chamber had made written submissions in writing on the possible name changes to the name-change committee.

“It was not acknowledged, refuted or followed up on and so we did not attend the hearings.

“The hearings are pretty much a fait accompli – no one listens to your position.”

Odwa Mtati, of the Port Elizabeth Regional Chamber of Commerce, was not available for comment.

AUTHOR: Barbara Hollands and Brian Hayward
DATED: 1st November 2008