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The old days of the 'dompas' and African names

By unknown | Feb 07, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Diago Balosang Thariyatshepe Isaka Segola is a veteran journalist who has worked for many years as a competent reporter and sub-editor.

Diago Balosang Thariyatshepe Isaka Segola is a veteran journalist who has worked for many years as a competent reporter and sub-editor.

Like the rest of us who know him closely and fondly, you may also simply refer to him as Bra Ike.

He says his mother called him Isaka, not Isaac. We prefer Bra Ike because we like and respect him.

Segola is just one of the millions of blacks - as in indigenous Africans - in this country who is proud of his Setswana names.

By the way, Diago is not pronounced the same as that of the Argentinian soccer legend, Diego Maradona. The "g" in Segola's Diago sounds like the one in the Afrikaans gaan, while Maradona's the "g" rhymes with the "g" in gold.

Bra Ike is an affable and wise old journalist.

What he says, even in jest, makes one think.

He tells me a poignant story about his names.

He remembers the days of "the stinker" or the dompas as it was notoriously known. When he went to apply for the dreaded dompas, he gave the white native affairs official all his names, but when he received the dompas itcontained only the name Isaac, and none of his other names that were in the birth certificate he had submitted.

Okay, enough about Bra Ike. His three seconds of fame end here.

However, this story reminds me of one Rex Dikgale, a tough-talking former policeman who was also a transport supervisor at Sowetan.

In his retirement speech a few years ago, he boldly told his colleagues he was proud that he would never work for a white man again.

He said: "When I was young I went to the labour recruitment office in Polokwane where I was born.

"I was happy that I would join other young men from my village to work in Johannesburg.

"On that day I also applied for the dompas. I enthusiastically told the official that my name was Madumetja wa ga Dikgale from Ga-Dikgale.

"The man, who was about the same age as me, looked at me almost incredulously. He said, in Afrikaans, 'What is that? From today you are Rex'."

Dikgale said when he saw his dompas with the name Rex his father saw red and accused him of abandoning his roots and adopting "the Europeans' names".

No matter how hard he tried to explain to his father, that it was not his fault but the white man was to blame, the old man gave Dikgale the hiding of his life and he has never forgotten that.

Indeed, today many of us move around with Western names hanging around our necks like an albatross.

Take me for instance. I was given these names: Themba Mokgane Stephen Wordsworth Wellington.

I think my parents were just showing off their English literary prowess when they gave me typically colonial names.

My late mother, bless her soul, used to call me Steve, for goodness sake.

I really admire people like the man formerly known as Sam Shilowa who realised later in life that he was actually Mbhazima.


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