Re-naming towns and cities is not a new thing in Africa

Africa Source: Google Images

No, a Gqeberha is not a citizen of a province in Canada. Gqeberha is the new name for Port Elizabeth, or Ibayi in the vernacular which means “The Bay”.

Port Elizabeth had to be changed because it was used to commemorate the death of a colonial governor’s beloved wife who died there in the early 1800s. And, of course, Ibayi had to go too presumably because Jeff Bezos named his internet business, eBay.

Giving this old colonial settlement established by English pioneers an isiXhosa name when the nearest speakers of the language lived kilometres away, is just another one of the ironies of history.

Re-naming towns and cities is not a new thing in Africa. Name-changing always comes in the wake of victorious anti–colonialism. North of us the capital city of Zimbabwe was swiftly changed to Harare after independence, and for good measure, a major road in its central business district was renamed Karl Marx Avenue. It scared off many a prospective investor of course, but there you are.

Gqeberha will not have a similar effect, we all hope. The only downside apart from pronouncing Gqeberha properly is changing all business stationery, outdoor signage sometimes, and the local airport too, maybe. Sign-writers and printers will be pleased, of course.

On the bright side, local IsiXhosa speakers will have many a belly laugh listening to English speakers trying to pronounce the new name:

Gqeberha pronounced phonetically is Gqe-ber-ha.

Gqe – a tongue clickber is pronounced as bear and there is a guttural “g” before the ha.