Africa Defense Forum
ADF is a professional military magazine published quarterly by U.S. Africa Command to provide an international forum for African security professionals. ADF covers topics such as counter terrorism strategies, security and defense operations, transnational crime, and all other issues affecting peace, stability, and good governance on the African continent.

New Names a Challenge in South Africa


How do you pronounce “Gqeberha,” the new name for the South African city of Port Elizabeth?

In an effort to rid itself of the last vestiges of colonialism and apartheid, South Africa is renaming some of its towns, cities and airports in the Eastern Cape province. Gqeberha is the Xhosa name for the Baakens River, which flows through the city.

Xhosa is one of South Africa’s 11 official languages. It’s also one of the few languages in the world that has a “click” sound, which can be difficult for non-Xhosa speakers to learn, including many South Africans.

According to the BBC, one tweeter reflected the views of many: “My Xhosa people. Teach us. How do you pronounce Gqeberha?”

Some have been giving each other a little help. One tweeter broke it down phonetically, saying the “Gqe” was a tongue click, “bear” for “be” and adding a guttural “g” before the ha: “Click bear gha.”

“It will take a while for the majority of South Africans to learn how to pronounce the new name, especially white South Africans,” Kwena Moabelo told CNN. “But it’s a good move in order to keep the indigenous names and languages of South Africa alive.”

Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa announced the name changes. Government officials say changing some of the country’s many colonial- or apartheid-legacy names will give black South Africans more of a sense of dignity and belonging.

White-minority apartheid rule ended in South Africa in 1994, but the country still has many place names that honor colonial rulers.

Some cities have, like the capital, Pretoria, kept their names, but the local government areas have been renamed. For instance, Pretoria is in Tswane Metropolitan Municipality, and the city of Durban is in eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality.

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