Residents and political formations in the Free State have reacted with mixed feelings over plans to rename Brandfort after the late struggle veteran, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. The Free State government has stressed the need to preserve the legacy of all freedom fighters.
Brandfort is a sprawling Free State town bearing mixed history. It was named after the president of the erstwhile Orange Free State, Johannes Brand.
The late struggle stalwart, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, was banished there in May 1977. The iconic House 802 in the Majwemasweu Township was her residence. Mama Winnie lived at the house with her youngest daughter, Zindzi, for almost nine years. The house is being restored to become a museum. Some of the residents have welcomed the move to rename the area after her.
“I don’t see anything wrong about changing the name of this township to call it after the late Winnie, because I was growing under Winnie. I was one of the activists because mama took care of us when we were young. She was taking care of us giving us food,” says one resident.
“The name changing is a good idea because Winnie played a huge role in the community. We should remove the apartheid name,” adds another community member.
Free State DA leader, Roy Jankielson, has questioned the timing of the name changing, saying it’s being done for electioneering ahead of local government elections.
“The people of Brandfort are struggling under poor service delivery. It has been months without water, poor sewage and refuse removal and lack of road infrastructure. Such decisions must be weighed up against the financial implications that will affect service delivery in that municipality,” says Jankielson.
The ANC in the Free State was unable to comment after its leadership was nullified by the Supreme Court of Appeal.
EFF leader in the Free State, Mandisa Makesini, says the move is long overdue.
“Our people must who fought for their struggle to today. So, the issue every time when we have to rename towns with our heroes then we are told about the money. We are not going to support.”
Sport, Arts and Culture Minister, Nathi Mthethwa, says consultations are under way.
“For the process to succeed, there should be consultation. It is at the stage of consultation, consulting Madikizela and Mandela family and also local people here. So that if there are objections they can be addressed,” says Minister Mthethwa.
Meanwhile, plans are afoot to rename the popular Hoffman Square in Bloemfontein after the late political stalwart, Charlotte Maxeke.