“Honourable Members, an incorrect notion has taken hold that the government is swimming in cash... our public finances are dangerously overstretched.”
This was Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s assessment during his 2021 Budget Speech this week.
Yep, times are tough, money’s too tight to mention. For the Treasury, so too for ordinary citizens.
The good news to come out of the budget was that government is planning to spend R10 billion on a programme to vaccinate the nation for FREE.
The Covid-19 special relief grant of R350 is to be extended to April, and personal income tax remains the same.
The bad news is that there is a tiny R30 increase for the old age, disability and care dependency grants to R1 890. And only a R10 increase in the child support grant to R460.
Meanwhile, the state will blow R31.7bn on Eskom, SAA will receive a bailout of R4.3bn and the Land Bank will be given R7bn.
Mboweni said government would try to cut the massive public sector wage bill by R303bn in the next three years.
Good luck pushing that past the trade unions.
R11bn would be spent on the Presidential Youth Employment Initiative – because with a record high unemployment rate of 32.5% (7.2 million South Africans), we need to make a plan.
And with government debt fast approaching R4 trillion, we’re in deep k**, mense.
Not the time for costly exercises – like renaming cities and airports – you would think.
Think again. This week the Eastern Cape town of Port Elizabeth was renamed “Gqeberha”, following the gazetting of the name by the Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa.
Port Elizabeth Airport will now be called Chief Dawid Stuurman International Airport.
Uitenhage has also undergone a name change to Kariega.
East London Airport is to be called King Phalo Airport, the town of Berlin is to be referred to as Ntabozuko.
MaClear Town will be called Nqanqarhu and King William’s Town is now Qonce.
There has since been an outcry, locals say there wasn’t adequate public participation in choosing the new names.
Opposition parties are demanding to know exactly how much is to be spent on the name changes, and why this money could not be used to stimulate the economy and build infrastructure instead.
Look, the purpose of “transforming” the names is clear: Government wants the landscape to reflect the culture and history of its people.
Renaming has happened throughout history, especially after revolutions and regime change.
St Petersburg in Russia was changed to Petrograd at the start of World War One, before it was changed to Leningrad by the Bolsheviks in 1924, and finally back to St Petersburg in 1991 when communism collapsed.
New York was once New Amsterdam, which is what the 17th century Dutch settlers called it.
Toronto in Canada was also once called York, before residents had a change of heart in 1834.
About 40 years ago, the former British colony of Zimbabwe was still called Rhodesia, and its capital Harare was Salisbury.
Our very own Cape has had its share of names down the centuries – from the Cape of Storms to the Cape of Good Hope.
The San people called the Mother City “Camissa”, meaning sweet water, referring to the rivulets that flow from Table Mountain.
The Khoi called it //Hui !Gaeb - translation “where clouds gather”.
Aside from the ruling power of the day exercising their naming rights, sometimes common sense dictates.
Honestly, who named East London? A town situated 13 500km SOUTH of London, UK?
A Berlin in the Eastern Cape? Come on...
As for Port Elizabeth, no, it wasn’t named after the queen of England.
FYI, it was named in memory of Elizabeth Frances, the wife of Rufane Shaw Donkin, acting governor of the Cape Colony, in 1820.
If you didn't know, you’re not alone.
Whoever came up with our names really did a terrible job.
“South Africa” is not even a name for a country. It’s a region of a continent.
Cape Town is not a proper noun. There are other Capes in the world: Cape Horn in South America; Cape Leeuwin in Australia; and South Cape in New Zealand.
It would be nice to reclaim and rename these places to be a reflection of our unique cultural identity.
You have to ask where the Ministry of Sports, Arts and Culture is going to find all the money to pay for this.
They weren’t writing cheques when our artists, sports people and event organisers desperately needed cash to survive the lockdown.