On Tuesday the national Minister of Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, finally approved the renaming of Zonnebloem to District Six and local maps are set to see the change very soon – to the delight of many. The approval has been published in the Government Gazette and may very well include a relook at the areas which should rightfully be included in District Six but aren’t under the current Zonnebloem area, according to the director of the District Six Museum.
Mayor Dan Plato said the approval of Zonnebloem to reclaim its original name of District Six is part of restoring the identity of the neighbourhood and gives a measure of closure for former residents who were forcefully removed from the area decades ago.
“Today we move another step closer to giving dignity back to residents who once lived in District Six. This is another milestone in restoring District Six after the Cape Town city council approved the name change of Keizergracht to the original Hanover Street in August. That name change proposal was submitted by the District Six Working Committee,” he said in a statement.
“I welcome the submission by Western Cape Arts and Culture Minister Anroux Marais, to support the name change. The City of Cape Town remains committed to supporting the restitution process of the District Six community.”
“We note the redevelopment plan submitted by Land Reform Minister Thoko Didiza to the Land Claims Court. We hope this will speed up the process of restitution, after many delays, for the hundreds of claimants still waiting to return to the area.”
Bonita Bennett, the director of the museum says people seem to be excited about the renaming, considering the messages she has been receiving. However, as applicants, the museum has yet to receive a formal notification from the government informing them of the outcome and therefore urges the public to remember that although the process is in its final stage, the process can still be slowed by objections.
Despite this, however, Bennett doubts there will be any objections.
“Part of the destruction, and therefore part of the restoration, was about the name,” said Bennett highlighting the magnitude of the achievement.
“On the current map, before this process, the District Six Museum was in Zonnebloem…it’s really great that we can now claim the name District Six.”
Bennett says that they had proposed a relook of the local map and the reunification of parts of the surrounding areas which should rightfully fall under District Six in their application. She assumes that with this renaming, the minister has accepted their proposal.
The District Six Museum is confident of the public participation process leading up to the renaming and is therefore confident in the process to follow.
Bennett has suggested what many regard as a fitting conclusion to the renaming process of District Six.
“I think it would be wonderful to have it [the conclusion to the renaming] on 11 February – a day we always commemorate and the day that District Six was declared a white group area in 1966… In 2020 it should be the day when the official renaming and announcement should be concluded. It fits in with the whole concept of memorialisation and reminding people that names of places are also a part of memorialisation.”