Minister Anroux Marais' Speech At Launch of Khoekhoe Geographical Names Brochure | Western Cape Government

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Minister Anroux Marais' Speech At Launch of Khoekhoe Geographical Names Brochure

21 March 2017


It is indeed an honour to launch the official brochure detailing some of the Khoekhoe Geographical Names in the Western Cape in celebration of national Human Rights Day today.

Geographical names are considered by most people to provide a sense of belonging to the suburb, the town or city where they live. A highly emotive aspect of debates around the ongoing transformation of the heritage landscape in South Africa is changes to, or possible changes to, existing geographical names.

There are more than 12 000 geographical names in the province of the Western Cape.  

Places have been given names by successive generations of inhabitants through the millennia. Many of the indigenous names of geographical features in our landscape have been retained, for example, Attaqua’s Pass and the Outeniqua Mountains. Others have been translated into the languages of settlers from Europe. For example, certain Khoikhoi names were translated into Portuguese, Dutch and later English and, eventually, into Afrikaans or isiXhosa. Many places with indigenous names were given new names. Table Mountain, Tafelberg and tabula monsa, Latin for Table Mountain, was known by the Khoi as Hoerikwagga, meaning mountain at the sea. Many more places and geographical features have been given names over the past 500 years that reflect a variety of interests, values and perspectives.

The standardisation and verification of all 12 000 geographical names in the Western Cape is progressing well. This process involves researching the historical background of every name, capturing the information, and correcting the spelling of geographical names where necessary. For example, research was conducted into the name of the mountain pass between Barrydale and Swellendam to ensure that the correct name is assigned. The name that has now been approved is Tradouw Pass which refers to the historic Khoi name of the pass meaning “the pass of women”.

When new municipalities were established at the beginning of the 21st century as part of the democratic dispensation in the country, some municipalities in the Western Cape acquired names that reflect our Khoi heritage. Think of municipalities such as Bitou, Hessequa and Matzikamma.

The launch of the Khoekhoe Geographical Names brochure today is testament to this progress that has been made and the significant strides the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport has made in transforming our heritage landscape in the Western Cape so that it is more social inclusive of all who call it home.

In the Western Cape there are many geographical names derived from Khoekhoe heritage. These names represent aspects of our province’s history that should be restored and cherished for future generations. This brochure promotes place names in this province that are derived from Khoekhoe heritage which is a tangible indication that the Western Cape Government acknowledges the province’s shared heritage and its diverse cultures.

The launch of this brochure is pivotal as it will raise awareness on the origins of the geographical names across the province. To take only one from the brochure is that of Knysna. The word Knysna is taken from the Khoekhoe word naizna, which means ferns. Knysna is the name of a river, a lagoon and the town situated at the mouth of the Knysna River. The area was named after the landscape which is rich with ferns.

As it has recently been raised in the public domain, I encourage all to promote these Khoekhoe geographical names across the province. The process to rename existing geographical names, especially those of towns, suburbs and cities, was clearly defined by the Supreme Court of Appeal as far back as 2007. Renaming requires sufficient consultation with inhabitants of specific suburbs, towns or cities by the applicant who proposes the name change. The evidence of these consultations must then be submitted with the required formal documentation to the Western Cape Provincial Geographical Names Committee. A recommendation is formulated by the Committee once it is satisfied that all the legal requirements have been met. It sends this recommendation to the South African Geographical Names Council, which is tasked by national legislation to make a final recommendation to the national Minister of Arts and Culture for a decision.

I thank you.


Media Enquiries: 

Stacy McLean
Spokesperson for Minister Anroux Marais
Tel: 021 483 4426
Cell: 083 504 1171