The Eastern Cape Provincial Geographical Names Committee is holding public hearings on proposed name changes for Port Elizabeth, the Port Elizabeth Airport and Uitenhage.

The Committee says it has received applications for the proposed renaming and has conducted research.

The topical issue of geographic name changing has been met with strong emotions by residents of the Nelson Mandela Bay metro. The process that began earlier last week saw a number of residents gather in various halls across the metro, to vote and debate on the proposed names.

The Eastern Cape Provincial Geographical Names Committee says it has received applications for proposed renaming, conducted research on the name and facilitated a consultative process with local community concerned, business, faith organisations, and other stakeholders in the jurisdiction of the places to be renamed. Nelson Mandela Bay Geographic names Committee chairperson Ondela Kepe says this is a lengthy process, inclusive of everyone concerned and various stakeholders.

“This process emulates from a process that is defined within the SAPNC act for the standardisation of geographic names. So what happens is we initially get applications from ordinary people saying that they want their particular geographic feature to be changed. What we then do is process and do research on those particular names, and then we host stakeholders that have interest in this geographic areas, we consult with them on the names then thereafter comes this particular process.”

Some residents of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro say the money that goes into geographic name changes could be put to better use.

“At the present moment, changing the name PE will be a waste of money. That money can be better spent. We are in a financial crisis,” says a resident.

“We are known nationally as PE, the second thing is the cost, they are huge and can be used for electricity, assistance for those that need it. It’s a complete waste of time and money,” adds another resident.

However, provincial legislature and Khoi and San activist Christian Martin believes this process is a crucial part of transformational justice. Martin, who has brought forward a name in this process, says it is necessary for a democratic country.

“I think it’s the most important time of the new democracy, the thing we must understand in our time, even the youth must understand that name changed isn’t a modern thing. Name changes is just a process or a measure when it comes to our brutal history. The learned people would call name change transitional justice.”

Once an agreement has been reached by all participants, the committee will make recommendations to the National South African Geographical Name Council, which will examine the process leading to all name conclusions, and make a decision.