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Dec 28, 2010 at 09:48am IST

Cape Town finally gets Nelson Mandela street

London: South Africa's Cape Town city has finally decided to name a street after Nelson Mandela whose election as president marked a historical victory of the anti-apartheid movement in the country 16 years ago, the Guardian reported here.

The city is about to become one of the last in the world to name a street after the former South African president, who served 27 years in jail before being released in 1990. Most major cities in the world, including Indian capital New Delhi, have already honoured Mandela.

Yet, the home of South African parliament will not give the 92-year-old leader of the African National Congress (ANC) a grand city-centre thoroughfare, the British daily said.

Cape Town finally gets Nelson Mandela street

Cape Town city has finally decided to name a street after Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela Boulevard will simply replace Eastern Boulevard, a fast three-lane carriageway that descends into the city just after the junction of Settlers' Way and (Cecil) Rhodes Drive.

"It has been a protracted business," said Owen Kinahan, who has sat on a series of failed street-naming committees since he joined the city council in 1996. "But we make no apology. Ours is a deeply scarred society and it is important that the process be conciliatory rather than divisive."

Cape Town's tardiness is in part because of the fact that it is governed by the opposition Democratic Alliance and its main constituency is not black but "coloured" descendants of slaves and the indigenous Khoisan.

Whites with financial muscle have a disproportionate say in the running of the city.

Local politicians have also run scared ever since Democratic Alliance mayor Peter Marais lost his job for announcing in 2001, without public consultation, that the city-centre streets of Wale and Adderley would be given the names of Frederik Willem de Klerk and Mandela in recognition of their joint 1993 Nobel peace prize.

But 20 years of dithering and bad decisions have not only left the city without a Mandela Boulevard.

Its poor black areas carry street names such as NY112 - generally believed to stand for Native Yard.

Kinahan, a Democratic Alliance politician, denies this. "They are the first two letters of Nyanga, one of the early townships," he claims.

Removing the NYs is not on the current agenda and, even though it is prominently located, the new Nelson Mandela Boulevard is shorter than a much-used suburban rat run, Hendrik Verwoerd Drive, named after an apartheid prime minister.

Mandela's name heads a list of 30 prominent people after whom streets are to be named, one of whom is heart-transplant pioneer Christiaan Barnard.

The ANC founding president, Albert Luthuli, and 17th-century leader Krotoa - the first indigenous Khoisan woman to marry a Dutch settler - will each be given a promenade and a square.

"They will be honoured in city-centre places which currently have no name, offering us the opportunity to landscape them in a way that will be educational," said Kinahan.

He denied that Cape Town was tip-toeing over the issue: "Cape Town's history did not start in 1994 (the first democratic elections) or 1948 (the beginning of apartheid). It started with the indigenous population, then slavery. We will not adopt a shotgun approach like the ANC has done in the rest of the country."

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