Proposal to rename highway after apartheid president goes ahead

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Former president FW de Klerk will know before the end of this year if the city centre’s Table Bay Boulevard would be named after him.

This was confirmed yesterday when the public participation process into the proposed renaming closed.

Councillor Brett Herron, the city’s mayoral committee member for transport, said the official street naming committee would review the public’s responses.

“The committee will then make a recommendation to the mayor. It should go to the December (City of Cape Town) council meeting. Whatever happens in December will be the decision,” said Herron.

“If approved, it (Table Bay Boulevard) would be renamed in the new year. There has been a proposal to rename it at the end of the of February, which is 25 years since De Klerk unbanned the ANC.”

De Klerk has not been part of the proposal to rename the highway that exits the city centre. It is a road that connects the city with the N1 highway.

The proposal had been made earlier this year, with prominent supporters backing the plan, said Herron.

“The city’s naming policy provides for ordinary citizens to submit proposals (for street renaming). The people who signed and supported this proposal include Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Premier Helen Zille,” he said.

When De Klerk heard about the proposal in August, he said it was “not an honour that I sought”.

“In my heart I am not at all sure that, with one or two exceptions, geographic locations should be renamed in honour of living people,” he said at the time.

“I would nevertheless be prepared to accept the honour, not on my own behalf but on behalf of all those who supported my efforts while I was president to negotiate a new non-racial constitutional democracy for all our people.”

Public outcry followed, mainly because De Klerk was the country’s last apartheid president. Online platforms were filled with debate, with suggestions that the street should be named instead after Tutu or anti-apartheid cleric Allan Boesak.

While some called for De Klerk to be “indicted as a war criminal”, others said he deserved the honour. ANC officials in the city council said they would fight the proposal.

Herron said the city has not responded to these comments and would do so after all public comments had been reviewed.

“It’s all part of what we will have to consider… The renaming process is meant to be part of building a socially inclusive city. It is not in our interest to support or take names that will be divisive,” he said.

“Our policy guides us and we want to honour people who have received global recognition. He (De Klerk) is a Nobel peace laureate (with Mandela in 1993). He qualifies in terms of our policy to be honoured.”

Herron said Table Bay Boulevard was a “significant road”.

“If we name a road after a former president, it would be of substance. This road connects with Nelson Mandela and Helen Suzman Boulevard and it goes past Albert Luthuli Boulevard,” he said.

Herron said the cost of renaming the highway would also be made public once the street naming committee report is submitted to the city’s council in November.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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