The Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture (DSRAC) welcomes the name change of Grahamstown to Makhanda, which was announced by the Department of Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa on 29 June 2018. Changing of names falls part of the Department’s provincial mandate, working closely with other departments, state organs and municipalities to ensure names that have been approved and published in the Government Gazette by the Minister of Arts and Culture are changed accordingly on streetscapes and townscapes. Furthermore this is part of the Department’s process to speed up transformation of the Eastern Cape heritage landscape through standardisation of place names and geographical features to celebrate the Centenary of Tata Nelson Mandela and mama Albertina Sisulu.
Makhanda was born near the coast in the Uitenhage area of the Eastern Cape around 1780. His father was a Xhosa man by the name of Gwala from the amaCwerha clan and his mother was a Khoi woman of the Gqunukhwebe clan. Makhanda's father Gwala died when he was a young boy and he was brought up by his mother and came under a strong Gqunukhwebe traditional influence. His mother was a spiritual diviner and medicine woman. Makhanda’s persona as one later to be recognised as an ‘inyanga’ was rooted in the early guidance of his mother and in his Gqunukhwebe roots.When a British-led force commanded by Colonel Brereton seized 23,000 head of cattle from Ndlambe’s people in retaliation, Makhanda urged all the Xhosa to unite to try to drive the colonizers out of Xhosaland once and for all. The British imprisoned him on Robben Island, but treated him with great respect, giving him private accommodation, food and furniture. On 25 December 1820, Makhanda escaped along with 30 other prisoners, mostly Xhosa and Khoisan rebels from the Eastern frontier districts. Although several survived, Makhanda drowned.
The Makhanda family, together with members of the Eastern Cape provincial and local government, the National Heritage Council (NHC), Robben Island Museum and traditional leaders travelled to Robben Island in Cape Town in April 2013 to witness the retrieval of Makhanda’s spirit.
This was South Africa’s first official underwater repatriation. Leading the retrieval was Notaka Mjuza, an Eastern Cape- born sangoma, who was also an eighth-generation descendant of Makhanda. The Mjuza family is based in Tshabo, Berlin.
Her mission was to perform an Ukubuyiswa, a process of retrieving someone’s spirit, placing it in a coffin and taking it back to the ancestral home for burial. The event was long overdue and Mjuza chanted and introduced herself to the ancestors.
In the early hours of 18 April 2013, minutes passed and the sangoma indicated a successful retrieval. She showed this by throwing a handful of silver coins into the sea. The crowd was jubilant, some sang and others danced.
About two hours later a crowd of about 200 guests, who had been waiting at the main auditorium of the National Heritage Council, rose as the coffin carrying the spirit of Makhanda was brought in.
Speaker after speaker told tales of the brave Xhosa warrior who led the first round of anti- colonialism resistance.
Prince Sivile Mabandla, a member of the Contralesa youth body in the province, said: “We cannot celebrate the generation of Nelson Mandela, Robert Sobukwe, Chris Hani and Oliver Tambo and exclude their predecessor, Chief Makhanda”. This was true, as members of Umkhonto weSizwe used to celebrate Christmas Day on 25 December as Makhanda Day to pay homage and tribute to a fiery and brave warrior.
Makhanda’s coffin was flown to East London and received by members of the South African Defence Force before being taken to the morgue. It was buried at Tshabo village near King William’s Town on Saturday 20 April 2013.
Most recently, the following Eastern Cape towns have also changed names, namely with Queenstown changing to Komani, Mt Ayliff to EmaXesibeni, and Mt Frere to KwaBhaca, to mention just a few.
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