Cost to rename township street surprises Langa residents

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Langa residents were surprised recently when they heard the township’s main street, Washington Drive, has been renamed at a cost of R153,000 of taxpayer’s money.

City of Cape Town officials confirmed in a statement on May 29 that the street would be renamed King Langalibalele Drive, in honour of the leader.

“The township of Langa was officially opened on 10 September 1927 and was named after King Langalibalele, the king of the amaHlubi tribe. His tribe resided in the Drakensberg foothills where they resisted the then Government of Natal,” said the City.

“King Langalibalele was sent to prison and later, in August 1875, was confined to the Uitvlugt plantation which is on the site of the present day Pinelands where he spent another 13 years before his release.

“In 1922 the then Prime Minister, Jan Smuts, handed over the portion of the Uitvlugt Farm north of the Vygieskraal River for the establishment of a garden city for those living in Ndabeni. Langa was developed on the land known as Langalibalele’s Location.”

A shop on Washington Drive which has been renamed. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

A shop on Washington Drive which has been renamed. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

Langa locals living on Washington Drive said they had no news about the renaming of this street though.

Latoya Mnani, 19, said: “I had no clue that this street would be renamed.”

“I knew streets were being renamed in Gugulethu. I knew that streets would probably be renamed here too,” she added.

“Washington Drive is the main street in Langa. It runs from the start to the end of Langa. I’ve lived on this street for 11 years.”

Mnani said the cash could have been used to “help people in need. It’s winter and it’s raining so their shacks will be wet.”

“It’s very costly for a name change. Yes, maps have to change and that’s costly. But I don’t think it’s necessary to spend so much money. People in Langa, in this road, live in shacks. They don’t have water or toilets. We share community toilets. They could have been helped with that money,” she said.

Nombulelo Msizi, a grandmother who was born in Langa, said the cost was inappropriate as “people don’t even have houses and they want to do that”.

“That’s expensive. Is there no way they can reduce those costs? Why are they doing this now? They don’t do the important things,” said Msizi.

“It’s important to rename the street. They’re changing the apartheid past. But why should it be this expensive?”

She added: “It is important to honour people like the king but today’s generation knows nothing about him. They don’t know their history. If they do this, they must make sure people know about the past.

“They can put information about it at hospitals or the library where people are interacting.”

Landile Mzalisi has been a general worker for the past 11 years at the Guga S’thebe Arts and Cultural Centre, a landmark on Washington Drive. He said this week was his “first time to hear about the renaming”.

Landile Mzalisi says he has not heard about the renaming. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

Landile Mzalisi says he has not heard about the renaming. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

“Nobody told me about it before. The government is doing a good thing to rename the streets. But they should have an indaba to ask people’s opinions too. They should ask us what names we propose,” said Mzalisi.

“They are wasting a lot of money. It doesn’t make sense that it costs so much money to rename a street. We need to know what they are spending this money on. They should spend the money on projects for people who live here.”

Group Up this week contacted Councillor Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport for the City of Cape Town, who is overseeing the street renaming process.

Herron said the R153,000 was “an estimate of the maximum amount it could cost to replace the road signage”.

“The City renamed approximately 90 streets in Gugulethu last year. These streets were all previously named using the NY (Native Yard) designation. The cost of implementing the new approved names is about R300,000,” he added.

Herron said renaming streets was “done for more than one reason.”

“One of the objectives is to build an inclusive city by ensuring that our place-markers and names are inclusive of the rich diversity of our city and country and also tell a balanced story of our history,” he said.

“Much of our city was named under successive apartheid governments. We know those governments pursued a particular narrative when it came to our country’s history and we know that they pursued a policy of segregation and oppression. “The naming of streets and places reflected that pursuit and those policies. If we are to truly build an inclusive and socially sustainable city it is important that our city’s place-markers accurately reflect our history and our diversity and that we do not perpetuate the memorialisation, through naming, of only one version of our history.”

Herron said further streets renaming were planned this year.

“There are naming proposals that have been approved and need to still be implemented, like Vanguard Drive to be renamed Jakes Gerwel Drive. Residents and organisations are free to make well-motivated and supported naming proposals to the naming committee,” he said.

Residents claimed to not have heard about this renaming, the City of Cape Town confirmed it has undertaken a “public participation process for a 30-day period as of 1 November 2013”.

“A letter was sent to the amaHlubi Royal House and various participatory methods were used, including door-to-door visits to households and businesses, campaigns on social media platforms, advertisements in community newspapers and the involvement of street committees and community-based organisations,” it said.

Herron added: “Some of the naming and renaming is unplanned and pursued in response to an unsolicited proposal that the committee supports.”

He admitted the City could “do more about communicating the history of the names used”.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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