United Kingdom musician Reginald Dwight (otherwise known as Elton John) had a winning song many decades ago that at some stage melted, “I guess that’s why they call them the blues”. Well, the song was about the blues and why would any genre be called the blues, more like what went into it. Back in the days I used to like that song since it was the only bridge I had with a little retro music apart from Jon Bon Jovi’s Bed of Roses. So there would be times when I’ll be chilling at a park in a small Jewish suburb and hear a song blurring from this rugged Datsun sung by one of those white-haired septuagenarian folks, your Imagine by John Lennon and scores of Meatloaf songs that had that crossover ‘thing’.

The same nostalgic feeling befell me the past two days as I spent them in Pretoria or is it Tshwane? Okay I was based at Central, which means I was in Pretoria and not on the outskirts, which desperately want to be known as Tshwane. Today I’m going to try and unbundle this big debate that has seen entertainers like Steve Hofmeyr embroiled in by-law politics. See, I’m writing this post from Pretoria, but then some of the pictures you see were shot in Tshwane. And the distance between the two cities, the colour of your skin and your lineage, there’s no mileage. What I’m saying is that there’s some folk who might have written from the same computer as I was but who swears to god that he wrote the story from Tshwane and he never shot any picture in Pretoria even when he has a picture of Paul Kruger (see pictures) and Tshwane (who are both in Pretoria) accompanying the story. And next to me can be a white guy of Dutch lineage who is an Afrikan by virtue of being an Afrikaner who will swear that he was never in Tshwane but Pretoria, and post the picture of Die Unie Gebou (which is in Tshwane) and say that it was in Pretoria.

This sounds stupid right? Well, almost. But politicians sitting (most of them deployed due to their blind loyalty) in municipal chambers are not known for their intelligence. So, let’s move along. Some few weeks ago there was an uproar when Tshwane Mayor Dr Gwen Ramokgopa indicated that her city was about to go on a branding campaign to take advantage, possibly of the Tourism Indaba that was unfolding in Durban (or is it Ethekwini?). Truth be told, the city needed an identity that can be branded, packaged and sold to the thousands of holidaymakers who were going to converge at the Durban Convention Centre (which I’m told has a new name). So, when Gwen indicated this the lobby groups challenged her to consult them before just giving names to landmarks. Now Gwen knows that given the population proportionality in her city there’s no way she can invite public comment and continue holding on to the Tshwane ideal.

It is more than an ideal though since I remember when I was in primary school we had indigenous poems that celebrated the city as Tshwane, sanctioned by the apartheid regime which’s relics form the bigger part of the lobby groups that rightfully demand public participation and consultation as per government legislation. As a learner I used to be good in reciting about ‘Tshwane, motse wa Poulo Mabasa’ (Pretoria, city of Paul Kruger). What becomes interesting now is that while Poulo really means Paul it is questionable if Mabasa (which is Shangaan and means something else) also means Kruger. Interesting that Gwen and her people, when they initially wanted to replace Uncle Paul with Tshwane they reasoned that Tshwane means ‘same’. True, it means same, I can vouch for that.

What I fail to vouch for is that there indeed was a king called ‘Same’ who lived in Pretoria many years before poor Andries Pretorius and his Voortrekkers came and claimed that he found the land unoccupied. For sure, the place had a name before that and it is that name that both parties should try to find. It is also interesting that while a legitimate claim can be made that there indeed once lived a king called Tshwane the obvious question would be, ‘what happened to his dynasty?’. Why, in all my time of perusing through the Pretoria telephone directory I have never come across a surname called Tshwane. Forgive my ignorance in this regard.

Now, my point is not about name-changing or restoration, depending on which side of the political debate you are on but on the sense behind the renaming of Pretoria and Tshwane. One of my friends said that the current political leadership must not stress itself about trying to give ‘proper’ names to every river, lake, street, building etcetera but should settle for a fact that maybe what they should have been doing in redressing the name issue is enough. Thirteen years of changing names is enough for one generation of leaders. Enough not because we still need Herzog overlooking the Union Building Gardens but since he’s a part of that history whoever is obsessing with the name of the city should first try to find out why did the Afrikaners put their ancestor there? There’s a joke making rounds that the ANC leadership is rushing to rename because they are aware that they are not going to be in power forever. But that can be the danger because it means this country will become a mockery like what was happening with St Petersburg in Russia. It was renamed Leningrad then later St Petersburg again, at a cost to the taxpaper.

Okay, the reason behind what I said earlier is that the people after which the names are given now might be unmasked later on as having been traitors. I personally know a couple of people in positions of power who were traitors in an ANC military machinery. What should the next leadership do in the event that it is found that one of the people whose names adorn main roads, buildings and rivers are found to have sold the struggle, the same one that the ANC need not claim copyright to because some of the people they are crediting with having liberated this country were outside while us inside never kept records of the people who faced bullets, teargas, arrests, torture in the prisons without wanting to abandon their families and flee?

That’s why I say let the current leadership pause for now and give the mandate to the next generation to rename facilities after twenty years of a moratorium. Then we will have more heroes who relate to us instead of people who died in exile and who might have been less-dedicated to the struggle. Icons like Miriam Makeba, Keorapetse Kgositsile, Nelson Mandela, Miriam Tlali, Phillip Tabane, Jonas Gwangwa, Gcina Mhlope should get their honour today from their peers, then twenty years from now it will be our turn to honour Kgebetli Moele, Bongani Madondo, Eric Miyeni, Mmatshelo Motsei, Nokuthula Mazibuko, Benny McCarthy, Nkhenke Kekana, Themba Godi, Arthur Mafokate, Tebogo Mahlatsi etcetera. Then we will also do limited renaming and leave the next generation of leaders with a mandate to rename the remaining facilities including new ones after leaders of the next forty years. In this way every generation will have celebrated its own and it will be relevant to whoever comes next.

Cruising through Tshwane today I was struck by all the politics of the debacle. When I visited Tshwane’s stature infront of City Hall I couldn’t help it but be struck by a sense of sadness remembering that poor Tshwane was vandalized a few days after being erected and unveiled by Gwen. Poor Tshwane was meant to stand where his ‘friend’ Kruger stands today. I couldn’t help but notice that Gen Andries Pretorius and another soldier are actually placed infront of Tshwane, which results in serious overshadowing. You don’t see blacks converging to take his pictures while a kilometer down the Paul Kruger Street you get whites (especially tourists) taking pictures of Kruger. I’m a tourist too and I take his picture.

After a long stroll that took me (for the 13th time) to Die Unie Gebou I felt bad. Sunnyside, the infamous student village is a dump. Brothers from the northern part of our beautiful continent outnumber those from the South. There are allegations that they are the ones involved in crime, especially production and illegal sale of porn films shot with unsuspecting students.

The inner-city is still fine with its beautiful jacaranda trees and serene streets. It still looks like a city for all its residents, black and white, and maybe that’s why they are fighting over it. I tell my friends that if anyone wants to change anything to sound more Afrikan, not forgetting that Afrikaans is an Afrikan language (and statistics allege that more blacks speak the language than whites) they must start with their own children. Don’t name your child Elvis and then demand to name Pretoria Tshwane. Don’t be named Mike and demand to name a highway Mxenge. Change your name first.

I’m inspired by one of my fellow bloggers who has got a beautiful name that sounds French. He’s got another name. He is Sipho (Gift in Nguni), and if one day he demands to rename Pretoria to Tshwane and Durban to Siphostad, I don’t see any reason why a comrade should complain.

My stroll through Tshwane gave me a clue. Why can’t all the groups put aside their differences and call it The Jacaranda City. They can then send their family members in Los Angeles, London, Paris, Stockholm, Madrid, Nairobi, Kaapstad, Johannesburg a picture postcard from The Jacaranda City, full stop.

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