Harrismith proposed name change a cosmetic cover-up for poor governance

Patricia Kopane

DA Leader in the Free State

The process for the proposed name change of Harrismith to Intabazwe is not only irregular and illegal, it is also a desperate attempt by the ANC to deflect valid criticism on its poor record of governance in the municipality.

So desperate has the ANC become that it now unashamedly resort to cosmetic interventions to hide its failures.

A notice was placed in ‘Die Volksblad’ on 04 December 2014 indicating the intention to change the name of Harrismith to Intabazwe, the name of a suburb adjacent to Harrismith. The notice only allowed for a four day window period where residents could lodge objections or make comments. The closing date for comments was set for 08 December 2014.

This process is illegal.

According  to the provisions of South African Geographical Names Council Act (No 118 of 1998) and the relevant regulations governing name changes at least 14 days’ notice must be given. What makes the process even more irregular  is that the public participation meeting scheduled for 09 December 2014 is to be held in Intabazwe and not in the town which is the subject of the name change, as required within the legislation.

The ANC launched an attempted name change for Harrismith in 2005 which was rejected outright by all the residents of the Greater Harrismith area, thousands of whom signed a petition to keep the name of Harrismith.

The costs involved with name changes are staggering. Costs the ANC governed Maluti-a-Phofung Local Municipality, which owes ESKOM in excess of R600 million in unpaid dues, can ill afford. Furthermore, the delivery of basic services within the Harrismith Area are almost non-existent, unemployment and poverty is entrenched and roads are in complete disrepair.

This blatant attempt by Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation MEC, Mathabo Leeto, to divert attention away from the real issues of poverty, unemployment and collapsed service delivery, is once again being rejected by the community.

We are confident that the residents of the Greater Harrismith area will reject this proposed name change like they have done so previously. Already thousands of residents have signed a petition and various community organisations are lodging objections.

On the 09 December 2014, residents will attend the meeting in numbers to reject this proposal.

The people of Harrismith demand good governance and the delivery of quality basic services, not cosmetic name changes that will have no positive impact on the lives of the community. The DA will also make its objections heard.