Bid to change De Waal Drive to Philip Kgosana Drive

Mayor’s office considering proposal

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Photo of people in demonstration
Phillip Kgosana is the man being lifted up in this photo from the 1960 protest of 30,000 people against the pass laws. (source)

The public are to be asked to comment on a request to change the name of De Waal Drive to Philip Kgosana Drive.

The proposal was announced on 30 March, the 56th anniversary of the day a 23-year-old Kgosana led 30,000 people from Langa along De Waal Drive into central Cape Town during protests against the pass laws.

Tony Heard, former editor of the Cape Times, who reported on the 1960 protest, announced at a dinner at which Kgosana was present that he had launched the renaming effort, submitting the request to the mayor’s office.

“Philip Kgosana was an indescribably brave person,” Heard told GroundUp. “He assumed leadership in the most difficult of circumstances.”

The mayor’s office acknowledged receipt of the request and is to consider it.

“As with all renaming proposals, it will be subject to public participation and recommendation to full council, who will have the opportunity to vote on the renaming,” said Pierrinne Leukes, spokesperson to Mayor Patricia de Lille

Regarding public perception, Heard said he did not foresee resistance, especially along political lines, given the apolitical nature of the submission by an independent individual.

“It would be churlish in the extreme if this were to be submerged in sterile politics,” he said.

A similar request to rename the road to honour Kgosana was filed in 2007 during a city-wide dialogue on renaming local streets, buildings and spaces. After narrowing down the 236 proposals received and consulting the public, the city’s Naming Committee submitted 10 requests to the mayor for approval. The proposal to honour Kgosana was not among these, as City policy prevents the naming of living individuals.

“If done intelligently, rules can be broken,” Heard said. “This case is totally exceptional. The leadership he showed at age 23 should override any rules.”

Kgosana was arrested after the march and after months in jail, fled into exile.

Councillor Brett Herron, chairperson of the Naming Committee, said the City’s naming policy was not set in stone.

“The policy provides for exceptions,” Herron said. “The motivation by the proposer will be considered.”

For Heard, Kgosana’s importance and relevance to the city is unquestionable, and the living persons provision would be “a thin excuse” not to recognise him.

“He’s a man of destiny in Cape Town,” he said.

Update: In response to a reader request, we found out the origin of the name De Waal Drive: Nicolas Fredrick de Waal (the spelling varies across sources) was the first administrator of the Cape Province. In the early 1900s he ordered the construction of the road that now bears his name.

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