Durban street names spot on

They may be long-winded, but they are commendably unambiguous. Published in The Witness – 20 August 2014...

In Pietermaritzburg there is Langalibalele Street. In Durban there is Dr Langalibalele Dube Street. Of these two names, which one is unambiguous as to which Langalibalele it was named after?

Ponder this in response to this question: is it not true that for the Langalibalele Street in Pietermaritzburg there is likely to be a pause to think, followed possibly by engaging in further other steps to confirm?

Let us give credit where credit is due. Durban was spot-on with those long street names!

Most of us still remember the resistance that was mounted during the Durban’s street renaming process. And during that tumultuous period I was introduced to the term ‘convoluted’. People complained that the new street names were convoluted; long-winded and difficult to pronounce. But just think of it, in a way they were right. Masabalala Yengwa Street could have been just Yengwa Street.

Durban street name, Dr Pixley kaSeme Street
Dr Pixley kaSeme Street

And Dr Pixley kaSeme Street could just be the short and sweet Seme Street. People questioned, what was it with the doctors carrying their titles on the streets; referring to the likes of Dr Monty Naicker, Dr Yusuf Dadoo, and Dr A. B. Xuma. Couldn’t these street names just be the melodious Monty Street, Dadoo Street, Xuma or even just A. B. Street?

The answer lies in checking some of Durban’s old street names.

Remember Victoria Street (now Bertha Mkhize)? Most thought it had been named after Queen Victoria, and that was false. That street had been named after Princess Victoria, the first child of Queen Victoria (of course mother and daughter shared a name).

As long ago as in the fifties, the historians and researchers already concluded that the origins of some Durban street names could not be established. Nothing could give a clue as to after who or what was Mona Place named. The Salmon Grove was for many years known as the Orange Grove.  The name was changed to Salmon Grove in 1949 to avoid confusion with Orange Grove at the Greenwood Park suburb. Ironically while that change was meant to solve one problem, but it created another. For it has never come be known which Salmon was being referred to. Early Durban had two notable persons of the Salmon name.  They both served as Town Councillors; there was M. J. Salmon in 1860 and A. G. Salmon in 1944.

But maybe the showstopper of confusion was Shepstone Street (now Qashana Khuzwayo). While for most people Sir Theophilus

Shepstone may come to mind, but it has never been concluded with certainty as to after which Shepstone that street had been named. The thing is, Durban had five persons of note who carried the Shepstone name and that street could have been named in honour of anyone of them. Fortunately Centenary Road (now ML Sultan Road) has been renamed while it is still remembered that it commemorated the Natal Centenary of 1924 of the arrival of the first British settlers. Otherwise with all the centenary anniversaries that keep being commemorated, that name was under threat of some lurking risk of potential confusion.

In 1942, King Street was changed to Dick King Street. That was done to avoid future potential confusion as it was acknowledged that Dick King was not the only King of note in the history of Durban. There was also the British Settler named Lieutenant J. S. King.

During the renaming of streets in Durban, people complained that the names were too long to fit when addressing envelopes.

First of all, we are no longer as reliant to communication by post as in the past. Secondly, the postal services and letter writing are just continuing in the absence of any huge drive to create new-sized envelopes for the sole reason of coping with the new street names.

People complained that the names were difficult to pronounce and spell.

That is not new. I too had these difficulties with the previous street names; especially Winder, Ordnance, Dores and Francois. And if you think I am being funny because these names are easy for you, that is exactly what I think about you if you complain about the pronounciation of the new street names. Through a little effort of learning and practising the pronounciations, I overcame those difficulties.

As for memorising the spelling, is that not a skill mastered at primary school level?

See? It all boils down to one’s level of willingness to co-operate.

Are you still trying to figure out which Langalibalele the street in Pietermaritzburg is named after?

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