Old and New changed South African place names

Kglagadi – Gemsbok

Kglagadi National Transfrontier park use to be Gemsbok Park


Pretoria – Tswane

The regime is trying to change this historical city with the beautiful name of Pretoria to Tswane. Much controversy surounds this move.



Warmbaths – (Bela-Bela)

“Belabela” is a Sesotho word simply meaning “hot spring” or “bubble bubble”, in reference to the hot water springs in this area.


Nylstroom – (Modimolle)

The word literally means “the forefather’s spirit has eaten” (Modimo o lle). According to tradition, it often happened that someone would climb the mountain (known as Kranskop), only to disappear without trace. The Basotho attributed such disappearances to an ancestral spirit that ate (killed) the unfortunate. (See also my brief synopsis below regarding how Nylstroom got its name.)


Naboomspruit – (Mookgophong)

The town was named after the huge candelabra tree (the naboom). The new name of Mookgophong essentially has the same meaning.


Potgietersrus – (Mokopane)

The true meaning is unclear.

The town was supposed to be called Mngombane as the original name of a Northern Ndebele (or BaTlou) king was Mngombane. His name was not Mokopane!


Pietersburg – (Polokwane)

The true meaning also seems unclear. Some sources say that it means “little storage space”, while other sources say it means “place of safety”.


Louis Trichardt

This town was for a short period known as Makhado but has now changed back to Louis Trichardt. (See further details below in this posting.)

More coming.

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