April 21 2007 at 10:10AM
By Fiona Gounden
Durban residents, businesses and political parties are outraged over 174 proposed name changes, which include a main road in Amanzimtoti being named after a man who planted a bomb that killed five people in the town in 1985.
Another major change that has drawn fierce criticism is the eThekwini Municipality being renamed Kwakhangela Municipality.
The notice to change the names of roads was tabled twice this week at Executive Committee meetings, but political parties like the Democratic Alliance (DA), Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and Minority Front (MF) are furious because they weren't shown the full list of the proposed names but were still asked to comment.
The proposed renaming of Kingsway Road in Amanzimtoti to "Andrew Zondo Road" has incensed family members who lost loved ones in the bombing of the Sanlam Centre shopping mall.
Zondo, 19, was sentenced to death by hanging on September 9 1986 for planting a bomb in a rubbish bin at the centre on December 23 1985. Two women and three children were killed.
One of the women who died was Irma Bencini, who was 48. Her stepdaughter Debbie Scott, 49, of Amanzimtoti is infuriated at the name change.
"I remember that day when we were all excitedly preparing for Christmas. I went to the then OK Bazaar near Sanlam Centre and my stepmother said she needed to go into the nearby supermarket. Within a few minutes I heard a loud bang and realised she was in danger. I rushed to the scene and found her body. She died instantly.
"My dad Mario has never been the same since then and that incident will forever haunt us. Surely Zondo knew that planting a bomb in a supermarket was going to kill innocent people.
"Kingsway Road is a main road in Amanzimtoti and I cannot for the life of me believe it would be renamed after such a dangerous criminal who caused so much heartache to the people of the community. My brother is also shocked and angry at this name change."
Another woman who died in the blast was 43-year-old Anna Shearer. Her stepdaughter, Priscilla Shearer, 51, of Doonside, was tearful as she relived the horrible ordeal.
"What happened to my stepmother was terrible and I cannot bear to imagine Kingsway Road being renamed after such a vicious man. I live in Doonside and travel on Kingsway Road often. It's really a travesty that the council would even consider this. There are many people in Amanzimtoti who remember this bombing and the pain it caused. They will never accept this."
The list also proposes that Kensington Road (Drive?) be renamed after Fidel Castro and Musgrave Road be changed to Walter Sisulu Road.
Davenport Road is to be named Helen Joseph Road and Botanic Gardens Road will be called Steve Biko Road.
Blair Atholl Road will be changed to Rodgers Sishi Road and Nicholson Road will be renamed ZK Mathews Road. Other roads that will be affected are West Street (suggested: Emakheni, Dr Pixley KaSeme, Archie Gumede and Chris Hani); Smith Street (suggested: Ma Adelaide Tambo, Anton Lembede, Moses Mabhida); Brickhill Road to Sylvester Ntuli Road, Moore Road to Che Guvara (sic) and Clarence Road to Rick Turner Road.
Major highways to be changed include Jan Smuts Highway (suggested: King Cetshwayo and Dennis Hurley), Higginson Highway (suggested: Dr Monty Naicker and Yasser Arafat) and Phoenix Highway (suggested: Mahatma Gandhi). Phoenix is to be renamed Mahatma Gandhi Township.
Political parties have demanded to be shown this list. According to DA caucus leader in council John Steenhuisen, the entire process is flawed
"They expected us to pass something that we haven't even seen. This was discussed in Exco earlier and we have told them the procedure is an absolute disgrace as political parties have not been shown the list. To add to this there are two roads named after the same person like Grey Street and Musgrave Road named after Walter Sisulu. The ANC is obviously abusing its majority in council and it is really a sad day for democracy. Surely renaming the eThekwini Municipality is a major step that needs to be discussed."
IFP Exco member Gladwin Ndlela said they will not let these name changes go ahead, especially the renaming of the Mangosuthu Highway to Griffiths Mxenge Highway.
"Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi has done so much for … Umlazi and its progression to where it is now. We will not let this significant name be changed without a fight," he said.
"They obviously have something to hide because they are fully aware that when we see this list we will have objections to idiotic suggestions like renaming a road after Fidel Castro. To add insult to injury they want to rename Princess Magogo Stadium in KwaMashu to Dumisani Makhaye Stadium. This stadium was significantly named after Chief Buthelezi's mother. He is a respected and revered individual who cannot be treated like this."
Minority Front Exco member Jayraj Paris Singh said the ANC has carried out the entire process in a clandestine manner. "If areas like Phoenix and the Higginson Highway in Chatsworth are going to be changed, then the people must have a say."
Municipal manager Michael Sutcliffe said: "We have given the public a chance to air their views and tell us what they think about these name changes … We just hope the process goes smoothly."
Meanwhile, business owners that may be affected are angered - Carlos Dacruz, owner of Mugg and Bean on Musgrave Road, said it was unacceptable: "Sisulu can have a road renamed after him in Johannesburg, not in Durban where he did nothing."
Nel Mthshumi, manager of Euforia Emporium on Davenport Road, said the new name would never suit the environment.
"Davenport Road has become famous and quite trendy with its little stores and vibey atmosphere. People have even started calling it the Davenport District. We will contest this to make sure that our colourful district does not become Helen Joseph District."
This article was originally published on page 1 of The Independent on Saturday on April 21, 2007