Calls for name change

The District Six Museum.

The District Six Museum is calling on public support to rename Zonnebloem to District Six.

Director Bonita Bennet says they are acting on the desire of former District Six residents.

The museum made an application to the provincial government’s geographic and place names committee to have the historical name reinstated.

“In order for this to be considered, we need to demonstrate that there is substantial public support for this, and the museum has initiated a campaign aimed at testing whether its understanding of such opinion is correct,” she said.

Campaigning to get the public involved in the renaming process will include door-to-door canvassing to residents in District Six, sending letters to organisations, businesses and institutions such as schools and clinics, and letters of support can also be signed in the museum’s bookshop and coffee shop.

The boundary of Zonnebloem goes from Buitenkant Street to Roeland Street and Philip Kgosana Drive, then goes down Upper Cambridge Street and Selwyn Street, and moves down Newmarket Street, Christiaan Barnard Street and Darling Street.

The museum has even started an online petition, which has gathered 1 100 signatures since last week.

Belinda Jackson says in the petition that it’s vital that this location regains its true and authentic identity for prosperity.

Bernie Alfino says the name should be reinstated to restore the dignity and memory of the people who lived there.

Fadwa Jansen says her mum and her mum’s younger siblings lived in District Six.

“It’s part of our heritage and a good and warm memory of interracial living that is harmonious and respectful,” she said.

District Six resident, Ursula Windsor says that living in the area and hearing the pain in the voices of those who were affected by these forced removals, makes it important to reclaim the name District Six.

“The community will never be what it was but it will have its name back, the memory of what was, will live on forever in the name ‘District Six,’” she said.

Ms Bennet says replacing the name District Six with Zonnebloem after displacing the people and bulldozing their homes, represented a final step in erasing the memory of the area under apartheid.

“The official name on the map remains as Zonnebloem, and as an area name it remains closely associated with that apartheid erasure,” she said.

According to the District Six Museum, in 1966 District Six was declared a White Group Area by the apartheid government and renamed Zonnebloem.

Researcher at the museum, Matthew Nissen says streets were redirected and given new names.

Chairperson of the District Six Working Committee (D6WC), Shahied Ajam, says they unapologetically request that the District Six name be reinstated in place of Zonnebloem without “bending the knee” to anybody for favours.

The City’s media manager, Luthando Tyhalibongo, says all proposals for name changes or new names for suburbs, streets and reserves must be supported by a motivation, and submitted to the City for consideration.

“The Mayco members will discuss the proposal, and if the proposed name complies with the City’s Naming and Nomination Policy, the members will recommend that the City follows a public participation process which will offer residents and interested and affected parties the opportunity to comment on the proposed name change,” he said.

Mr Tyhalibongo says it’s impossible to say how long any renaming process would take as it will depend on due process being followed.

Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport spokesperson, Tania Colyn, said the District Six Museum was required to facilitate a public participation process, and all the related documentation of this process should have been submitted to the provincial government’s geographic and place names committee in time for their next meeting today, Friday June 14. The meeting will take place at the provincial Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport and
will include members of the geographic names committee and members of the District Six Museum.

Ms Colyn says once all the required documentation has
been submitted, the committee will consider the application and will then make a recommendation to the MEC for Cultural Affairs and Sport, Anroux Marais.

Ms Marais would then make the recommendation to the national Minister of Arts and Culture, who makes a final decision after the national committee has met. “The final approval or non-approval lies with the national minister, based on the national committee’s meeting,” said Ms Colyn.