South Africans get their tongues spherical Gqeberha, new Xhosa identify for Port Elizabeth
Many South Africans have embraced the change, although it is not easy for non-Xhosa speakers to master the pronunciation of ‘Gqeberha’.
“It will be a while before the majority of South Africans learn how to pronounce the new name, especially white South Africans,” Kwena Moabelo, 46, told CNN on Thursday.
“But it is a good step in keeping the indigenous names and languages of South Africa alive,” added Moabelo.
South African Art and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa announced on Wednesday the name change as well as other changes to the names of cities and public infrastructure.
In a statement on Thursday, Mthethwa said: “The name changes were necessary as this is part of a government program to change the cultural heritage landscape of South Africa. The names of the places we live reflect the identity and cultural heritage of people in the south Africa.”
Lwazi Monyetsane, 33, told CNN that the name change was necessary to make the country more inclusive.
“The country must have a historical meaning and relevance that doesn’t glorify a past of oppression … So change the names – as many as you can so the black majority of our country can finally feel included,” she said.
Responding to concerns that Gqeberha was difficult to pronounce, Monyetsane said, “The beauty of education will solve this. If you allow yourself to learn tolerantly and respectfully, it should be impossible to say a name.”
Zanele Mahatle, a Johannesburg resident, suggested checking the name of South Africa as well.
“Maybe at some point they have to rename South Africa,” she said. “There are so many things that need to be changed and decolonized, from removing apartheid leaders and enabler statues to renaming streets,” Mahatle said.
“If English street names and buildings keep the names and legacies of our colonizers alive, one step at a time will we have a land to represent us,” she added.
South Africa experienced decades of forced racial segregation known as apartheid. It was here that laws were passed that racially divide the population, reserve the best public facilities for whites, and create a separate and inferior education system for blacks. The Partheid ended in 1994 when Nelson Mandela was elected South Africa’s first black president.