Rev William Nicol
Johannesburg mayor Kabelo Gwamanda has officially renamed William Nicol Drive. But who was Rev Dr William Nicol?

Home » Do you know: Who was William Nicol?

Do you know: Who was William Nicol?

Johannesburg mayor Kabelo Gwamanda has officially renamed William Nicol Drive. But who was Rev Dr William Nicol?

26-09-23 16:12
Rev William Nicol
Johannesburg mayor Kabelo Gwamanda has officially renamed William Nicol Drive. But who was Rev Dr William Nicol?

The Johannesburg Road Agency (JRA) has urged motorists to consider alternate routes due to road closures in and around the William Nicol and Sandton Drive intersection.

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The reason for the temporary closure comes as Johannesburg mayor Kabelo Gwamanda is set to officially rename William Nicol Drive.

The road will from Tuesday, 26 September be known as Winnie Mandela Drive.

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Back in March 2021, the ruling ANC formally started the process of renaming the road, with a public comment phase running until the following month.

At the time, former mayor of Johannesburg, Geoff Makhubo, defended the move – which was met with some negative sentiment – saying that it was important to rename streets and places to remind residents of the history of the country.

“Names carry history. They say something about those whose contributions are deemed worthy of a public and multi-generational memory. These are by their very nature contentious, and that is why they must always be treated with the sensitivity they deserve..

“This renaming of one of the city’s iconic landmarks is a result of the council’s commitment to social transformation and cohesion. It symbolises the immeasurable commitment of Mama Winnie to the struggle for humanity and liberation of our country,” he said.

Makhubo died on 9 July 2021 from Covid-19 complications.

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Rev Dr. William Nicol was a Dutch Reformed minister, theologian, educator and Administrator of the Transvaal Province.

He was born on 23 March 1887 and died at the age of 80 on 22 June 1967.

In 1906, he obtained his bachelor’s degree at Stellenbosch University and then studied at the Free University of Amsterdam and Princeton.

From 1913 to 1938 he was a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church in Johannesburg East, called Irene Church.

In June 1938, he became a minister in Pretoria East. From 1934 to 1948 he was the moderator of the Dutch Reformed Synod of the Transvaal.

In Johannesburg, he was a champion for the recognition of the Afrikaans language and the establishment of Afrikaans-medium schools.

Nicol was the founder of Johannesburg East’s parish magazine, Irenenuus, in January 1923, that he wanted the members in their particular situation escorted to their faith.

It was written in Afrikaans in a time when the language just started gaining a foothold in schools and was rarely heard from the pulpit.

Nicol in August 1923 (date uncertain) made history when he wrote the first sermon in Afrikaans broadcast on the radio directly into the radio studios in downtown Johannesburg.

At 09:45 on Sunday, 7 June 1924, the minister and church made history when full service was held in Afrikaans for the first time.

He also broadcast on the Union broadcast and from Irene Hall.

A month later, on 4 October 1925, the first communion service was broadcast from Irene Hall led by Nicol.

He was chairperson of the Afrikaner Broederbond from 1924-1925.

On 1 November 1948 he was elected as the administrator of Transvaal and 10 years later his work, especially with regard to education and culture, continued to grow.

He retired on 1 October 1958.

Nicol believed in teaching education in the person’s mother tongue and said any education taught in a second language would hinder a person’s growth and learning ability.

Thus he also helped translate the Bible with help from African religious leaders into Zulu.

He opposed the National Party’s Bantu Education and suggested a model with learning in the mother tongue with English as a second language so that people could all communicate.

P79/1,a well-known road in Johannesburg, bore the name William Nicol Drive until it was changed on Tuesday, 26 September 2023.

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