ANC priorities: Name changes, not road repairs

Douglas Gibson wonders why the ANC wanted to name a disintegrated stretch of tarmac after Mama Winnie

ANC priority: name change, not road repair

3 October 2023

The EFF claimed a major victory by being responsible for the renaming of William Nicol Drive to Winnie Mandela Drive.

I did not know William Nicol. He was the Administrator of the Transvaal during my school years, from 1948 to 1958. According to all accounts he was a successful administrator and things like hospitals, schools, roads, town and city councils all worked in those days. I was intrigued to learn that he, a dominee, had nine children. Different days. I feel no particular affection for Nicol and no emotional attachment to a road named after him.

I did know Winnie Mandela quite well. We served in parliament together and we became friendly, chatting away at parliamentary social functions. She was a fascinating and hugely attractive woman. She played a significant role in South African history, but she was also deeply flawed. Proof of that is that President Mandela had to fire her as a deputy minister, when he had every reason to grit his teeth and tolerate her undisciplined behaviour. Added to that was her conviction for kidnapping and serious allegations of being responsible for a killing and of dishonesty with money.

Quite why the ANC wanted to name an existing road, one that is falling apart in many places, with potholes galore, after Winnie, is not understood. Surely it would have been better if something new was named after her: perhaps a major new hospital or some infrastructural achievement of the ANC? Or is that asking too much of an ANC that is failing in government and while not creating anything new and worthwhile, is allowing everything else to fall into disrepair?

The minister in the Presidency, Ms Khumbudzo Ntshaveni, in a cabinet of lemons, made the truly silly remark that there would have been civil unrest if they had not renamed the road. I wonder how many South Africans, whether supporters of the EFF or the ANC, truly care about changing street names. Especially at a cost of R250,000 each.

The EFF has announced that the next targets are Louis Botha Avenue and Jan Smuts Avenue. Perhaps renamed Panyaza Lesufi and Julius Malema Avenues? We have not been informed by our lords and masters yet. As ANC rule reaches the twilight zone, with no progress and no money for the basics of government, citizens must expect more panem et circenses – bread and circuses: sustenance and entertainment provided by government to appease public discontent.

This is evident when the ANC and the EFF use public money to bus in supporters, and feed them, to ensure an appreciative audience at the renaming ceremony. We can expect many more such ceremonies, attended and volubly addressed by the mayor, Kabelo Gwamanda.

In order to attend the renaming ceremony, the mayor failed to attend an urgent meeting called by the minister of Water Affairs and Sanitation, Senzo Mchunu. We had the indignity of the mayor of Johannesburg being given a public dressing down by the minister because the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the water crisis in the city which is disastrously affecting many of our citizens who go for days or even weeks with no water.

It is clear where the mayor’s priorities lie: let others worry about issues that really affect the people of this city and go for the partying and celebration of street renaming. He and his sponsors in the ANC and the EFF ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Douglas Gibson is a former opposition chief whip and a former ambassador to Thailand. [email protected]

This article first appeared in The Star newspaper.