Eastern Cape reclaims its identity and cultural heritage

A number of name changes in the Eastern Cape were announced by the Minister of Sport, Arts & Culture, Nathi Mthethwa on 25 February.

‘Port Elizabeth’ the biggest metro in the province and its name is now history and will now be called Gqeberha. Mthethwa also approved and gazetted changing the name of the Port Elizabeth airport to the Chief Dawid Stuurman International Airport.

East London airport is now the King Phalo Airport, Uitenhage is Kariega, King William’s Town is Qonce, and Maclear is now Nqanqarhu.

The minister said that the transformation of the naming landscape in South Africa is ‘a critical component of the heritage landscape as a whole’ and that there was a need for the name changes as this is part of government programme to transform South Africa’s heritage landscape. The names of places we live in reflect the identity and cultural heritage of the people of South Africa.

The South African Geographical Names Committee from the Eastern Cape received more names gazetted from the province. More name changes are expected from the province which will be submitted to the South African Geographical Names Council (SAGNC). Prior to any further name changes, the Provincial Geographical Names Committee will conduct public consultations on all the names that were changed for the minister’s consideration.

The South African Geographical Names Council (SAGNC) is the official government body that advises the Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture on new geographical names as well as the changing of existing geographical names.

Chief Dawid Stuurman’s legacy will be carried through the name change of the PE Airport to Chief Dawid Stuurman International Airport. Born near the Gramtoos river in the Eastern Cape, Stuurman was a Khoi Chief and political activist who fought against Dutch and British colonial rule, between 1799 and 1819 during the dispossession of the Khoi and San people’s land by the colonial rule.

He was amongst the first political prisoners to be sent to Robben Island and amongst the first group that successfully escaped island on two occasions. He was prisoned for the third time and sentenced to life imprisonment on a penal settlement in New South Whales, Australia. He died there on 22 February 1830 at the then Devonshire Cemetery which was later redeveloped into a railway station.

Several attempts were made by the National Heritage Council in conjunction with Khoisan community activists to research and repatriate the remains of Stuurman. David’s remains could not be repatriated due to his remains buried where the railway station is built. In 2017, a South African delegation and descendants of Chief David Stuurman held a traditional ceremony in Sydney to repatriate his spirit.

To apply for Standardization of geographical names on the Geographical Names Council Database, visit the office of the South African Geographical Names Council or contact the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture for your provincial geographical names council on (012) 441 3000.


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