SIGNS OF CHANGE: THE RENAMING OF DURBAN’S STREETS Democratic Alliance v eThekwini Municipality: Unreported Judgment (KZD) Case Numbers 10787/08 and 6608/07 Judgment delivered: 3 June 2010
Keywords:street renaming, democratic process
On 27 February 2007, the council of the eThekwini Municipality, the governing entity of the Durban and surrounding metropolitan region, passed the first of two resolutions in terms whereof certain byways and landmarks would be renamed. In a public municipal advertisement, the City’s mayor announced: “The street renaming is indeed an ultimate step towards honouring all the heroes and heroines who fought a fight for a good cause. Chief among these are those who in the pursuit of freedom ventured their way through the troubled bridges of apartheid. Therefore as eThekwini council, we feel honoured to be part of such a historic process of ensuring that names of these great men and women of the struggle remain known even to the generations to come … It is indeed a democratic process: members of the public were consulted and given an opportunity to suggest names. This will ensure that the city we live in is indeed accurately reflecting its people and its history …” Notwithstanding these sentiments, on 1 May 2007, about 10 000 demonstrators marched through the city’s central business district and converged on the City Hall, where the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the Democratic Alliance (DA) held a joint protest to complain, not about the fact that the streets and landmarks were being renamed, but about the new names themselves. The suggested names of SWAPO, Griffiths Mxenge, Andrew Zondo and Che Guevara spawned a public outcry and accusations that the process was carried out without proper consultation. The controversy prompted the New York Times to observe that “Durban is different. Intentional or not, some of the proposed name changes clearly flick at scabs covering deep divisions”. Against this background, the DA and the IFP launched an application in the public interest in the Durban High Court which will be analyzed hereunder. The Applicants prayed for an order to the effect that the decision by the Municipality to rename the streets must be set aside and for the old names to be restored. A representative for the DA announced that:
“We took this case to court because we believed, and still do believe that the rights and opinions of thousands of eThekwini’s citizens were trampled by the actions of the municipality who simply roughshod over their objections”.
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