Why do we still call it the Union Buildings, whose union? : Angelo Fick

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Almost 30 years into democracy the Union Buildings, the seat of South African government, should not be still called by that name and the African National Congress (ANC) should not be going into a policy conference to debate the removal of offensive names, signage, and geographic names. That is according to Political Analyst and Director of Research at ASRI, Angelo Fick. 

Speaking on the sidelines of the ANC National Policy Conference that has entered its final day at the Johannesburg Expo Centre in Nasrec, Fick says renaming of buildings and roads are things that should have been done in the 90s. 

“Are we really debating whether a road should still be called Hendrick Verwoerd? Surely, we have covered that lap. We have other issues we should probably be talking about,” he says. 

Verwoerd was the former Prime Minister of South Africa often regarded as “the Architect of apartheid”. It was under his leadership that a lot of apartheid policies were introduced and implemented.  

A road in Centurion and a tunnel in Elim, in Limpopo, among others, are named after him. 

“The fact that we still call it the Union Buildings, founded in 1910 on the active dispossession of the majority of South Africa’s black majority. Whose union was celebrated by these buildings?” asks Fick.  

“Why are we not renaming it Independence Building for instance?” he asks!

Fick says it is ironic that the ANC, which was formed as a protest against the exclusion of black people from government two years after the commencement of Union Buildings’ construction in 1910, today deploys government officials to the same building under the same name. 

Thousands of ANC delegates have gathered in Nasrec as the party prepares to conclude its 6th policy conference.  

Fick says discussing the renaming of buildings cannot be the substance of the work in 2022. 

On Saturday, Political Analyst Susan Booysen, told SABC News that looking at policy discussion documents, it was evident no major shift in policy to address these challenges should be expected from the conference.  

“That is a sense I got from the policy documents as well, that it’s about tweaking, fine-tuning, correcting here and there, but not major new policies and that is fascinating because it is a country that is in such a big crisis in many ways,” says Booysen.