Durban backs down from plan to rename 'red-light' street after Gandhi

The fashion in South Africa is to rename streets, cities and towns after famous historical figures, but Durban city authorities may regret their decision to honour the memory of Mahatma Gandhi.

The fashion in South Africa is to rename streets, cities and towns after famous historical figures, but Durban city authorities may regret their decision to honour the memory of Mahatma Gandhi.

In an effort to please the city's 1.5m residents of Indian descent, councillors have just renamed a road after the hero of India's struggle for independence.

But when it was discovered that the choice of street, Point Road, is notorious for drug dealing, prostitution, crime and other vice, the result was a storm of protest which has yet to abate.

"This is the greatest insult to be ever bestowed on an important historical figure," said Randish Patel, a Durban businessman who is one of the leaders of the backlash.

"It is as good as branding Gandhi a criminal. They should have renamed the whole city 'Gandhi City' instead of electing to abuse his name on a street prominent for everything that Gandhi would have opposed".

The Gandhi affair is particularly unfortunate, given the noble motives behind the move. South Africa has embarked on an exercise to rename streets and places to assert the dominance of blacks who took power after 50 years of institutionalised racism.

A decade after apartheid was dismantled, many historical landmarks still bear the names of people such as Hendrik Verwoerd and D F Malan, the founders of apartheid. As, gradually, the names of more and more figures of the anti-apartheid struggle appear on street corners, the idea of renaming Point Road was partly an attempt to include the country's Indian community in the transformation.

Gandhi spent several years in Durban in the early 1900s and his descendants still live in the city.

A torrent of suggestions for a new location are now being hotly debated. The city fathers will not heed Mr Patel and other locals' solution to rename the entire city after Gandhi, and the original renaming proposal has been sent back to the municipality's non-sexism and non-racism subcommittee. In all, nine alternative streets are being considered and Grey Street, the area the Indian community was restricted to during apartheid, is a possible contender.

As the debate rages, irate residents are jamming the switchboards of local radio stations and newspapers to make their feelings known.

The president of the Hindu organisation Maha Sabha, Ashwin Trikamjee, said he was pleased the council had at last decided to address the concerns raised by the public.

A spokesman for the council said: "It's unfortunate that some people felt that this particular street was not honourable enough. Their concerns have been noted."

But after weeks of debate, some of Durban's citizens are now arguing that the lesson of the Gandhi street affair is that name-changing, which came into vogue with the end of apartheid, simply isn't worth the trouble.

One Indian resident, apparently tired of the whole saga, said simply: "After all the name-changes will the municipality give us rebates to change the addresses on all our documents and to buy maps of our brave new world?"

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada