Wednesday, August 13, 2008

When my friend John Lewis told me the municipal authorities in Durban were going to change all the street names I couldn’t believe it but apparently, despite an Afrikaner trying to legally stop them, they have gone, or are going, ahead with it. Now the whole world is aware of what the non-white population of South Africa had to go through during the dark days of apartheid but do we really need a street named Hero Of The Struggle? Or one named after some Marxist? Che Guevara, Castro? The whole idea is totally idiotic simply from a cost point of view in changing street signs, let alone the amount of mail still addressed to the old names, or even addressed to the new names, that’s going to go astray, let alone taxi drivers who won’t know one street from another, the cost of printing new town maps, changing telephone directories, the cost of new business stationery, chaos reigns and for what? Durban is less than two hundred years old if we take its beginning with the 1820 settlers and it is now iTekweni in the province of QuaZulu-Natal. It boasts of being a wonderful holiday resort (it certainly did used to be) but from everything I hear from South Africans it is now one of the most dangerous cities in the world. If any member of the municipal bigwigs cares to contradict me let him do so. Don’t they realise that unless law and order is restored all hopes of a truly thriving tourist/holiday industry is so much wishful thinking. So what do they waste their money on? Changing street names simply so they can crow I’m the king of the castle, you’re a dirty rascal, look who’s the baas now. Change town names by all means, change provinces even, but even with cities that have their names changed it can be a bit of a waste of time. Think of St Petersburg, changed to Leningrad, now back to St Petersburg. Volgograd was once Stalingrad was once Tsaritsyn. Countries have their names changed and in watching the Olympic parade I couldn’t help but marvel that there were at least a dozen countries we had not only never heard of but didn’t have a clue as to exactly where on this globe they could be. Greece has been having its running name squabble with Fyrom claiming Macedonia and the Greeks virtually saying over our dead bodies. Though one doesn’t immediately come to mind I suppose there must have been wars started over a bit of name calling. “What’s in a name,” Shakespeare said, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Obviously not to the bigshots in Durban. I wonder what Rapson and Fleming Johnson Roads, once our homes in Durban, are called now.

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