Cape Town finally takes the time to honour Nelson Mandela The South African city is at last about to join others across the world that have named a street after the former president Alex Duval Smith Cape Town The Observer, Sunday 26 December 2010 <li class="history">Article history Table Mountain dominates the landscape around Cape Town, which has finally named a road in honour of Nelson Mandela. Photograph: Jon Hicks/ Jon Hicks/Corbis Twenty years after Nelson Mandela walked to freedom in Cape Town, the city is about to become one of the last in the world to name a street after the former South African president. But in the wake of years of infighting, that has already cost one mayor his job, the home of the country's parliament will not give the 92-year-old anti-apartheid hero a grand city-centre thoroughfare. 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.'' Most major cities in the world have already honoured Mandela. 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 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 said the 26 other names being considered would probably be given streets after further consultation. But none is likely to be in the city centre. "We have lots of First and Second Streets, and more than 600 names are repeated more than five times in Cape Town. We also have many public facilities with no names. So there is room to accommodate them without causing upset,'' 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.'' He also ruled out calls to rename the city Hoerikwagga, after the spirit that is said to reside in Table Mountain. "Cape Town is a brand. That is out of the question,'' said the councillor.