donkin row port elizabeth
Donkin Row Port Elizabeth or Gqeberha, as the city is now known. Image Credit: Flickr

As most South Africans know, the Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa published a number of name changes for towns, cities and airports in the Eastern Cape, in the Government Gazette, on Tuesday. Today the department released an official statement about the name changes.

“The transformation of the naming landscape is a critical component of the heritage landscape as a whole. The most notable change in the Eastern Cape Province is that of Port Elizabeth, which is now known as Gqeberha,” said the department of Sport, Arts and Culture in a statement on Thursday.

The new Eastern Cape names include:

  • Port Elizabeth – Gqeberha (basically pronounced ‘click sound’ ‘bergha’)
  • Port Elizabeth International Airport – Chief Dawid Stuurman International Airport (a tribute to the Khoi chief who escaped Robben Island twice and was banished to Australia)
  • East London Airport – King Phalo Airport
  • Uitenhage – Kariega
  • King William’s Town – Qonce
  • Maclear – Nqanqa Rhu.

“There was a need for the name changes as this is part of a government programme to transform South Africa’s heritage landscape. The names of places we live in reflect the identity and cultural heritage of the people of South Africa,” the Minister said.

How to pronounce Gqeberha and the other new names – Happy Clicking!

To help South Africans who don’t speak Xhosa master the pronunciation, several videos have been shared (including the Kiffness’ parody of the click song to help South Africans pronounce Gqeberha and other E. Cape names). For absolutely accurate pronunciation, take a listen to the BBC’s Pumza Fihlani:

Port Elizabeth Gqeberha jokes and memes going viral

Several jokes have also gone viral on social media.

joke Port Elizabeth name change
One of several jokes going viral about the Port Elizabeth name change. Source: Facebook

joke port elizabeth Gqeberha joke port elizabeth Gqeberha

joke queen gqeberha port elizabeth

While most have accepted the name changes with humour, some are complaining that a petition signed by 26,000 was counted as just one objection. Some say it makes no sense to change PE’s name since the area was never inhabited or named anything else before. Others argue that it was still land that belonged to indigenous people even if they didn’t live there or use it. Some South Africans have voiced their concerns that right now SA has other more urgent matters to spend money and time on, while others have embraced these “very reasonable changes, South Africa is after all an African country. Time to start mastering those isiXhosa clicks”.

The name Gqeberha is already known amongst many PE residents as it’s the isiXhosa name of one of the friendly city’s oldest townships, Walmer Township.

The Gazette also includes a number of spelling corrections for existing geographical names, as well as official registrations of new names.

The South African Geographical Names Council (SAGNC) Act 118 of 1998 provides for the transformation of South Africa’s naming landscape.

More name changes will be submitted to the SAGNC and the Minister in the future, provided that public consultations are conducted by the Provincial Geographical Names Committee before such name changes are submitted to the Minister for his consideration.

All the gazetted names come from the Eastern Cape and were submitted to the South African Geographical Names Committee from the Eastern Cape.

“Prior to the changes, the Provincial Geographical Names Committee conducted public consultations on all the names that were changed. The South African Geographical Names Act provides for objections within 30 days from members of the public in instances that they are not happy with the Gazette name changes,” the department said.

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WATCH VIDEO The Kiffness covers The Click Song to teach South Africans how to say Gqeberha and other new Eastern Cape town names