Mbombela – The name of Mpumalanga’s capital city is to be changed from Nelspruit to Mbombela.
Arts and Culture Minister Lulu Xingwana on Friday published in the government gazette a list of 42 geographical name changes which she had approved between 28 July and 2 September this year.
"Some of the approved name changes in Mpumalanga are Belfast to eMakhazeni, Waterval Boven to Emgwenya, Machadodorp to eNtokozweni, and Nelspruit to Mbombela," said the department’s Premi Appalraju, on Monday.
She said Xingwana’s approval followed the recommendation of the South African Geographical Names Council (SAGNC).
SAGNC councillor and provincial geographical names committee (PGNC) deputy chairperson Mpyane Ratau-Dlamini said the gazetting of the name meant that Nelspruit was now officially Mbombela.
"The minister approved the name change in September, which allowed people to comment before publishing the changes in the gazette. This means all processes are closed and the name is officially changed," said Ratau-Dlamini.
She said the SAGNC had forwarded a final recommendation for the name change to Xingwana’s office on 27 May "after business people failed to attend meetings that we arranged so that they could raise their concerns".
"You must understand that the people have spoken and their will has prevailed. Although there were a few oppositions to the name change, the majority of the people consulted wanted the name changed," she said.
Ratau-Dlamini said the Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism (LCBT), which is opposed to the name change, had missed two consultation meetings, one in November and one in February. Previously, the chamber threatened to take legal action against Xingwana should she gazette the name change.
On Monday, the chamber’s tourism division chairperson, Sandra Jacobs, said she was still consulting other board members on a way forward now that the name change had been gazetted.
In the minutes of the February meeting, two chamber officials were recorded as having shown up for the meeting but they left because of "business pressures".
In the minutes, Ehlanzeni District Municipality representative Jackson Siboza said the businessmen obviously "did not think the matter was that important".
He stated in the minutes that 75 percent of people in 36 wards around Nelspruit had supported the proposed name change, and that people had been invited since 2005 to participate in public meetings through adverts on Ligwalagwala FM and Radio Laeveld as well as in the Mpumalanga News and City Press newspapers.
Siboza said that the local geographical names committee had also sent letters to parents through pupils at schools around Nelspruit.
Ratau-Dlamini promised that businesses would not be forced to change their street addresses or remove name boards immediately and that street name signs would remain for a while.
"People will have three years to change everything, which gives them enough time to change signs or boards," she said.