Pretoria renamed after tribal leader to shed its colonial past

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The Independent Online

Pretoria, the capital of South Africa and administrative centre of the country's former apartheid regime, has been re-named after an ancient black tribal leader.

Pretoria, the capital of South Africa and administrative centre of the country's former apartheid regime, has been re-named after an ancient black tribal leader.

Following a hotly contested decision by the city council, which is dominated by African National Congress members, the capital will now be known as Tshwane, after a chief who ruled well before white colonisation of the area. The name Pretoria has been retained for only a tiny portion of the capital, which covers the city centre.

The move has outraged members of the mainly white Democratic Alliance (DA) opposition in the council, and hardcore Afrikaner organisations.

Some irate white ratepayers are already threatening a rates boycott. Various Afrikaner organisations have threatened to launch a "separatist movement" dedicated to safeguarding the history of South Africa's white population.

Notwithstanding white dissent, the imposing Union Buildings, the seat of power where Nelson Mandela took the oath of office as South Africa's first black president in 1994, and all residential suburbs, will now be part of Tshwane.

ANC council members said the renaming of national symbols after liberation was common in post-colonial societies. Zimbabwe's capital city, formerly Salisbury, became Harare in 1980, while Mozambique's capital changed from Lourenco Marques to Maputo in 1975.

The new name was agreed late on Monday and will be marketed to the United Nations, African Union, European Union and other international bodies. The South African Geographic Names Council, which has the final say, is expected to agree.

But critics say the change is financially extravagant and potentially damaging to tourism.

Democratic Alliance spokesmen say that it will cost at least £150m. The new name had "less substantiation behind it than the mythical island of Atlantis," said the DA's Derek Fleming.

Tshwane had been used for the past 10 years to refer to the area around the city, which is home to about 2.5 million people.

Pretoria was established in 1855 and named after Andries Pretorius, who was a leader of the "Voortrekkers", a vanguard of Dutch Boers who left the Cape colony and entered the interior to escape British rule. Many place and street names in South Africa date back to the country's apartheid past. One of Johannesburg's main streets is named after Hendrik Verwoerd, a former prime minister, and one of the main architects of the system.

The Pan Africanist Congress, traditionally more radical than the ANC, has long said that all remnants of apartheid should be expunged from South Africa.

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