Gqeberha: the origins of the renaming of Port Elizabeth

24 February 2021 - 10:57
By TimesLIVE
Port Elizabeth has been renamed Gqeberha.
Image: WERNER HILLS Port Elizabeth has been renamed Gqeberha.

The decision to rename Port Elizabeth was officially approved and gazetted by sports, arts and culture minister Nathi Mthethwa on Tuesday, but who was behind the idea to rename the “Friendly City”?

Other major name changes will see Uitenhage changed to Kariega, and Port Elizabeth Airport will now be known as Chief Dawid Stuurman International Airport.

The name change issue had been dragging on for about two years with residents submitting hundreds of objections to what were then proposals.

In 2019 HeraldLIVE reported the men who nominated the renaming were Boy Lamani of KwaMagxaki, former ANC MPL Christian Martin, and Khoi and San chief Mervyn Allies.

According to Lamani, who submitted the name Gqeberha to the geographical names committee, he had nominated the change in early 2016 when Danny Jordaan was still mayor.

LISTEN | Gqeberha: how to pronounce it and how it came about

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The committee recommended Port Elizabeth be renamed Gqeberha – the isiXhosa name for Walmer Township, which is one of the first and oldest Port Elizabeth townships.

Lamani said at the time Gqeberha lost its popularity when the Walmer name became prominent as industrialisation grew.

Khoi and San activist Martin proposed the new name for the airport.

Stuurman, who rebelled against the Dutch and British colonialists and served time on Robben Island, was banished to New South Wales, Australia, in 1823. He died in exile in Sydney in 1830.

Martin campaigned for Stuurman’s remains to be repatriated to SA and they were in 2017.

Allies, from Uitenhage, said previously renaming the town to Kariega was about restorative justice and the name should reflect the original inhabitants.

“We preceded this area for 1,000 years before anyone moved here. When we drive here we want to feel home, that we’re in Africa, and this name change would do that,” he said.

“The entire region from Willowmore and Somerset East to Uitenhage was formerly called Kariega. Our ancestors called the Swartkops River, which is outside Uitenhage, the Kariega River.”

TimesLIVE