Many South Africans on social media have been contributing to a lively debate about whether to change the official name of their country.
South African Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa sparked the online debate with a suggestion that the country should change its name to “Azania,” adding that “South Africa” was merely a geographical reference and should be done away with just like other colonial-era names in Africa, according to the IOL.
Azania has ancient Greek origins and was used by early explorers to describe the area around southeastern tropical Africa. The name also referred to a portion of the southeast African coast, extending from Kenya to perhaps as far south as Tanzania.
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Mthethwa’s proposal received support from some Black nationalists, such as Thamba Godi of the African People’s Convention who said South Africa should have followed in the footsteps of sister countries, such as Namibia and Zimbabwe, which promptly ditched their colonial names (South West Africa and Rhodesia, respectively) following independence.
At least four other African countries changed their official names after independence: Tanganyika-Zanzibar to Tanzania, Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, Gold Coast to Ghana, and Dahomey to Benin Republic.
The idea to rename South Africa has been put forward several times before, but the ruling party the African National Congress has always rejected the proposal and retained the use of the name South Africa.
South Africa’s Cape Argus newspaper threw the latest call from the Culture Minister to rename the country to the court of public opinion, sparking a lively debate in which the majority of participants appeared to be against the name change.
Sixty-two percent of respondents in a Twitter poll were against the name change, while another 25 percent questioned why it should be changed. The majority of the Cape Argus’s Facebook community were also against it, with many expressing concerns over possible financial and logistic implications:
It can take millions or even billions of rand to change the name. I don’t see the point. The money could be spent on things that are needed. Try to change inequality in the country instead, Sean O’Poole, from Muizenberg offered.