Geographical Names | Western Cape Government

Geographical Names

(Department of Cultural Affairs & Sport, Western Cape Government)

The Western Cape Provincial Geographical Names Committee (WCPGNC)

The Western Cape Provincial Geographical Names Committee (WCPGNC)

The WCPGNC is established in terms of the South African Geographical Names Act, 1998, and its members are appointed by the provincial Minister for Cultural Affairs, Sport and Recreation. The Committee makes recommendations to the South African Geographical Names Council (SAGNC) and, through the SAGNC, the national Minister for Arts and Culture on matters pertaining to geographical names in the Western Cape.

The Committee is established in terms of section 2(2)(a) of the South African Geographical Names Act, 1998, and consists of residents of the Western Cape nominated to serve on the Committee and appointed by the provincial minister for a period of three years, as well as ex-officio representatives of the South African Post Office, the national Department of Water Affairs, the provincial Department of Economic Development and Tourism, the provincial Department of Transport and Public Works, the provincial Department of Local Government, SALGA Western Cape, the provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, the national Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and the Names Society of Southern Africa (NSA). The Chairperson the WCPGNC also serves as the Western Cape representative on the SAGNC. The Provincial Committee may co-opt members to the Committee based on their area of expertise and the application being considered at the time.

Current WCPGNC members (2022 - 2025): 

Mr Siphiwo Mavumengwana (Chairperson)
Mr Elsworth McPherson (Deputy- Chairperson)
Prof Lolie Makhubu-Badenhorst 
Dr Mandy Corolissen
Mr Liewellyn Abdoll
Ms Amber Grace Williams 
Mr MI Higgins
Mr Glynn Allard
Mr Matthew Nissen
Mr Qiyaam Marshall

Functions of the WCPGNC

The functions of the Western Cape Provincial Geographical Names Committee as contained in the Handbook on Geographical Names are:

  • To advise and engage with the local authorities in ensuring the principles of the SAGNC are applied to names under their jurisdiction.
  • To make recommendations to the SAGNC on the names of a geographical feature that falls within its provincial boundaries.
  • To do preparatory work for the submissions of names to be send to the SAGNC.
  • To ensure that local communities and other stakeholders are adequately consulted.
  • To liaise with the SAGNC on promoting research and ensuring that unrecorded names are recorded.

The Route of an Application

Applications for approval of a geographical name can be lodged at the SAGNC by all government departments, provincial governments, local authorities, the South African Post Office, property developers and any other body or person. Applications will only be considered if they are submitted to the SAGNC through the WCPGNC.

The SAGNC will then make recommendations to the Minister regarding the proposed approval of a name. Once the name has been approved and standardised, it is published in the Government Gazette.

Standardisation of geographical names is important to affirm country's history and national identity and to avoid confusion in the delivery of essential services to its citizens. The need for standardising geographical names arises from the following factors:

  • People tend to give the same name to different places.
  • Names may sound the same or the spelling of one place name may be very close to that of another.
  • Names can be spelled in different ways.
  • Places often have more than one name in a multilingual country.

The Process of Standardising a Geographical Place Name is Based on the Following Criteria
  • The current orthographic rule of the language from which the name derives.
  • The wishes of the local population, provided they are not in conflict with the principles of the SAGNC.
  • The historical use of the name.
  • Redress, where a name is changed on the basis of historical considerations.
  • United Nations resolutions on the standardisation of geographical names.
  • Any other relevant factors which the SAGNC may apply.

Submitting an Application for Approval of a Geographical Name
  • Application forms for the approval of a geographical name can be obtained from the SAGNC or downloaded from its website.

A detailed explanation on how to submit an application can be found in the Handbook on Geographical Names, but a brief summary is provided below:

  • Please use only the prescribed application form (do not retype - the appropriate form is also attached).
  • Supporting documentation giving information about the name is welcome.
  • Submit the application form to the Tribal Authority and/or Local Authority for signing or affixing of an official stamp and then send the application to the WCPGNC for consideration.
  • If sending a fax or e-mail, please back it up by sending the original documents by registered mail.

What Geographical Names Fall outside the Jurisdiction of the SAGNC?

The following geographical names fall outside the jurisdiction of the SAGNC and applications for name changes in these cases can therefore not be submitted to the WCPGNC for attention and recommendation to the SAGNC:

  • Juristic names, ie the name of the country, the names of provinces and the names of local authorities.
  • Features under the control of local authorities, eg streets, municipal buildings, squares, parks and cemeteries (please see Schedule 5(b) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa for a complete list of local government competencies for further clarity).
  • Privately owned buildings and farms.
  • Cadastral names (names of geographical areas used for the registration of land ownership).

The Chairperson: Western Cape Provincial Geographical Names Committee
Attention: Ms Anita du Preez
3rd floor Protea Assurance Building
Greenmarket Square
Cape Town, 8000
Tel: 021 876 2532
Fax: 021 483 9845

The content on this page was last updated on 12 January 2023