Harrismith ‘restored to barbarism’

Many other towns in the Free State province are being targeted for renaming in line with government policy of changing names of towns and streets that date from white rule.

A proposal to change the name of Harrismith in the Eastern Free State to Intabazwe is somehow a poignant reminder of history’s hard lessons.

The proposal is seen by some as an attempt by the ruling party to deflect valid criticism of its poor record of governance in the municipality.

The ANC launched an attempted name change for Harrismith in 2005 which was rejected outright the residents after thousands signed a petition to keep the original name.

The new focus on a black name for Harrismith is said to divert attention away from collapsed service delivery. The Maluti-a-Phofung Municipality allegedly owes Eskom R600 million.

The public participation meeting scheduled for 09 December 2014 is to be held in the black township Intabazwe and not in the town which is the subject of the name change, as required within the legislation.

A notice was placed in ‘Die Volksblad’ on 04 December 2014 indicating the intention to change the name, but the notice only allowed for a four day window period where residents could lodge objections which is illegal.

According to the provisions of South African Geographical Names Council Act (No 118 of 1998) and the relevant regulations governing name changes at least 14 days’ notice must be given.

Lieutenant General Sir Henry George Wakelyn Smith, 1st Baronet of Aliwal GCB (28 June 1787 – 12 October 1860), known as Sir Harry Smith, was a notable English soldier and military commander in the British Army of the early 19th century.

In 1828 Smith was ordered to the Cape of Good Hope, where he commanded a force in the Sixth Xhosa War of 1834-36.

After he had restored confidence among the whites by his energetic measures, he was appointed governor of the Province of Queen Adelaide, and “vigorously” set about “civilizing” the black tribes, according to Wikipedia.But the ministry in London reversed his policy and, to quote Smith’s own words, “directed the Province of Queen Adelaide to be restored to barbarism”.

Smith himself was removed from his command, his departure being a final blow to the Boers.

Many Boers, largely in consequence of this policy of Lord Glenelg, began the migration to the interior known as the Great Trek.