Over the last few months many Joburgers will have noticed that the inner city has some new street names. Although it may seem that these are quick decisions, the opposite is true. The City of Johannesburg via it Directorate of Arts, Culture and Heritage follows a rigorous process. Below are a few excerpts from various reports compiled over the last few years to give readers a deeper understanding of the process.
In July 2013 a report was compiled outlining the suggested street name changes (the step before public consultation):
In his State of the City speech, the Executive Mayor announced the awarding of the Freeman of the City award to four prominent women activists, namely Sophie de Bruyn, Rahima Moosa, Helen Joseph and Lilian Ngoyi. Together, these heroines led the 20 000 strong Womens’ Freedom March to the Union Buildings in Pretoria in 1956.
A request has been received by Community Development to investigate the re-naming of streets in Johannesburg in honour of the four women icons to be with the Freedom of the City Award.
The report now considers some re-naming considerations for each of the four women to be honoured:
Sophie de Bruyn
Of the four new recipients of the Freedom of the City award, Sophie Williams de Bruyn is the only one still living. Naming places after living people is generally discouraged by the Policy on the Naming and Re-naming of Streets and Public Places. In Section 7.1 (“Criteria for the Selection of Names and the Re-naming of Features”), the Policy states: “Naming after living people should be avoided and only be done in exceptional cases”. The case of Sophie de Bruyn can however be considered to be such an exception. Taking into account her exceptional service, and such factors as her advanced age, it will be fitting for a street to be re-named in honour of Sophie de Bruyn.
Rahima Moosa (1922-1993)
In 2007, the City re- named Mayor Street in Newclare in honour of Rahima Moosa. Now called Rahima Moosa Avenue, this is the street where Rahima Moosa lived together with her husband and fellow-activist, Dr. “Ike” H.M. Moosa, and her family still lives at this address.
Helen Joseph (1905-1992)
The late Helen Joseph lived at no. 35 Fanny Avenue in Norwood, where she was under house arrest for many years. Helen Joseph has been honoured with the naming of a major hospital in Johannesburg, located in Perth Road, Auckland Park. Other places named for her include the former Davenport Road in Glenwood, Durban, and a road in Rustenburg. In 2010, the gravesite of Helen Joseph in Avalon Cemetery, together with that of Lilian Ngoyi, was declared as a National Heritage Site.
Lilian Ngoyi (1911-1980)
Lilian Ngoyi lived at no. 9870 Nkungu Street, Mzimhlophe, Soweto, after moving there in the 1950s. It is at this address that she was confined when under house arrest by the apartheid government. For 16 years, Ngoyi was banned from attending and participating in any social or political gatherings, becoming the person who spent the longest period under house arrest. At the time of her death in 1980, she was still staying in this house with her daughter Memory and the grandchildren.
Sites in Johannesburg and Tshwane have been named and/or re-named in memory of Lillian Ngoyi:
- A community health centre in Soweto has been named in honour of Lilian Ngoyi
- On 9 August 2006, on the 50th Womens Anti-Pass March of 1956, Strijdom Square in Pretoria, from which the women marched, was re-named as Lilian Ngoyi Square.
Appropriate streets should be identified to be re-named in honour of the above three recipients of the Freeman award who are now deceased, namely Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph and Rahima Moosa respectively. This choice of which streets to re-name should be guided by the principle that geographical features named after persons should be in accordance with the stature of the persons concerned (not, for example, naming an obscure street after a person of national importance).
In accordance with the high standing of the three women concerned, four prominent streets in the city centre and in Newtown have been identified for re-naming in their honour. This will help in transforming this area, where historically a number of streets were named exclusively after men.
The streets which have been identified for possible re-naming run parallel across town, going east to west, and they comprise:
- Bree Street
- Jeppe Street
- Pritchard Street
- President Street
In considering which streets to re-name, due regard should be given to historical associations of the existing names, and the heritage value that these may hold. The report will now outline the origin and meanings associated with each of these street names in turn.
1) Bree Street in the city centre and in Newtown
The translation of this common Dutch street name is “Broad Street”. In fact Bree Street is not wider than the other streets which were measured up at the time, and does not serve as a descriptive name.
2) Jeppe Street in the city centre and in Newtown
Jeppe Street was named in honour of the prominent pioneering family of Julius Jeppe Snr. and his sons. The following entry appears for Jeppe Street in the book Johannesburg Street Names: a dictionary of street, suburb and other place names complied in 1968 by Anna Smith:
Edgar P. Rathbone, at the first annual dinner of the Rand Pioneers on 26 September 1903, stated that Jeppe Street commemorates the name of a pioneer, but did not say whether it was Julius Jeppe Senior, or his sons Carl and Sir Julius Jeppe (First Annual Report of the Rand Pioneers, p. 30). Other writers, for example Prof. P.J. Nienaber in his Afrikaanse biographies Woordeboek, p. 127, state that members of the Jeppe family are commemorated by this street name.
Sir Julius Jeppe (1859-1929) was a mining and property magnate, knighted in 1922 for his pioneering role in the development of Johannesburg. A main suburban street in Pretoria was named after him, and Jeppe Boys High School in Johannesburg suburb of Kensington is named after him.
3) Pritchard Street in the city centre and in Newtown
Here is the account from Johannesburg Street Names:
Everyone knows that this street bears the name of the surveyor William Henry Auret Pritchard, and the earliest reference traced among the numerous references for the origin of this name is the Transvaal volume of Men of the Times, p. 299, issued in 1905. He was born in 1861 at Beaufort West, arrived in Johannesburg on 25 August 1886 …, and was therefore on the Rand before the proclamation of the goldfields. He died in Johannesburg on 13 May 1947 …. He surveyed the 36 claims between President and Bree Streets which De Villiers could not include in the original survey of Randjeslaaagte because they were being mined, and the assumption is therefore that Pritchard named the streets in this area when he laid out the Stands. This was before 1 June 1887. Earlier than this, Pritchard surveyed the village of Paarlshoop on Langlaagte.
4) President Street in the city centre
This street is known to have been named in honour of President S.J.P. Kruger, and it has also been suggested that this was expected to be the most important street in Johannesburg.
The City of Joburg began a public consultation process for the re-naming of streets at the beginning of February 2014. A notice of intention was published in The Star, Beeld, and Sowetan. The following comments were received by the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation:
The Johannesburg Heritage Foundation is very happy with the choice of the names of women. Together with Albertina Sisulu the heart of Joburg will become much more gender sensitive. Up to now we have really only had POLLY Street!
1) We have no objection to the loss of BREE which is simply a translation of wide (which is an interesting comment because Joburg streets tended to be narrow).
2) PRESIDENT doesn’t apply to any specific President, and so has no special meaning.
3) JEPPE does have historical significance in Johannesburg, but there is a whole suburb named after Jeppe, so the City would not be deprived of those associations with a Johannesburg pioneer.
4) PRITCHARD we believe should be retained as he was a land-surveyor and we have so little appreciation for the enormous contribution made by land-surveyors in defining exact details of the land since it is described by survey.
5) Would it not be better to change NOORD Street which is purely descriptive and yet one of the liveliest parts of the city. It may be a bit depressed now but it holds a number of very interesting old buildings and we believe its heritage elevates its significance. It actually deserves a more significant name.
Below is the City's response to the comments from the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation:
As stated by the JHF, it is desirable to remember the contribution of William Henry Auret Pritchard (1861-1947), an early surveyor of Johannesburg. Pritchard moved to Johannesburg on 25 August 1886, arriving before the proclamation of the goldfields, and took up work as a surveyor. He surveyed the village of Paarlshoop in Langlaagte, one of the first suburbs of Johannesburg, and in 1887 was given the task of linking the two sections of central Johannesburg from Commissioner Street to President Street and from Bree Street to Noord Street. After the Anglo-Boer South African War (1899-1902), Pritchard continued to work as a surveyor, practicing for 59 years. Pritchard played a leading role in the establishment of the Institute of Land Surveyors of the Transvaal.
As noted above, the name Pritchard Street, named after the surveyor W.H.A. Pritchard, should be kept for heritage reasons.
Further, as suggested by the Heritage Foundation, it would be preferable to re-name Noord Street in honour of one of the courageous activists led the 1956 Women’s March against the pass laws.
The following re-namings are recommended for honouring the four woman recipients of the tile of Freeman of the City:
- Bree Street - Lilian Ngoyi Street
- Jeppe Street - Rahima Moosa Street
- President Street - Helen Joseph Street
- Noord Street - Sophie de Bruyn Street
[According to the COJ website The Mayoral Council adopted these recommendations on the 4 September 2014.]
31 March 2015 update from the COJ
Processes have by now been completed for re-naming a collection of streets in the city centre, including new street markings. [As indicated above] they include four streets re-named in honour of women recipients of the Freeman of the City award.
Pixley Seme Street (formerly Sauer Street) now honours a leading figure in the liberation history of the early 20th Century. Seme was a lawyer, intellectual, and journalist, and a founding member of the ANC, and later served as President General of the organisation.
[The excerpts above are selected by The Heritage Portal and are not intended in any way to represent the full COJ process]