There was ululation, song and dance in Pondoland as Mbizana Local Municipality became Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Local Municipality in yet another name change by the government.
Unlike many instances in the country where name changes enforced by the national government create political, racial and ethnic rifts in local communities, the people of Mbizana welcomed the renaming of their municipality.
How could they not as the struggle icon was born in one of the local villages, eMbhongweni, where she grew up in the Madikizela traditional Royal House before getting married to Nelson Mandela of the Thembu Royal family in Umtata.
It was the people of Mbizana themselves that chose the new name of their municipality from a selection of names including names of popular local rivers and mountains.
The community also agreed to honour the former president of the ANC Women’s League, although struggle icon Oliver Reginald Tambo was also born and bred in Mbizana.
Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma thanked the various communities for the peaceful transition and urged councillors to strive for good governance of public funds.
“Mama Winnie was beautiful and kind. And we want this municipality to emulate these qualities by not being embroiled in fraud and corruption.
“And she has always been afraid of failing our people. So everyday we hope you will seek to do your very best to serve these communities.
“Strive to create jobs here so that people do not have to travel to Johannesburg to seek employment.”
Sixolile Mehlomakhulu, the mayor of Alfred Nzo District Municipality which is tasked with providing water and other services to communities in Mbizana, praised the communities for fighting against an ancient tradition of marrying young girls to old men in the district.
“There have been sporadic incidents of families forcing children to marry old men.
“We are glad this is no longer happening as children have a right to get an education.
“Older people are also not forgotten as we have brought more sewing machines and they are going to be refilled so they can be able to make a living.”
Forcing name changes on communities has created a new conflict between residents of Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage after their towns were renamed Gqeberha and Kariega.