Monumentalization and the renaming of street names in the city of Durban (Ethekwini) as a contested terrain between politics and religion.

11 December 2014

Responding to one of the key recommendations of the transition from apartheid to a democratic South Africa, the government promulgated the South African Geographical Names Council Act No. 118 of 1998.1 The aim of this policy was to change the names of public places and roads. The City of Durban (eThekwini) started implementing this policy in 2006. However, the implementation process was dominated by political organizations with minimal participation by other civil society groups and a total nonparticipation of religious groups such as churches. For instance out of the 182 new names that were promulgated, only two of them (Denis Hurley and Diakonia) were drawn from the religious sector. The aim of this paper is to highlight the contestations and contradictions around the monumentalization of the history of South Africa through the geographical renaming process. It seeks to critically examine the implications for the non-participation of the religious sector in the geographical renaming process. The paper is concluded with a few propositions that can be embarked upon in order to enable effective and meaningful engagement in such a process in order to evince a generally inclusive and broadly accepted list of geographical names, representing most of the key sectors of society, rather than the dominant political organizations.