Tempers flared over proposed name changes to the Cape Town International Airport on Monday night, as a public-participation hearing on the matter turned into chaos. The meeting had to be called off and security had to be called in as groups vying for different names, especially that of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, and a group wanting the airport to be named after the Khoisan people, came to blows.
Wednesday is the deadline for the public to submit their proposals for the planned name change, and the issue has been hotly contested since the EFF's leader, Julius Malema, called for it to be named after Madikizela-Mandela. Transport Minister Blade Nzimande wants it to be named after Nelson Mandela, and there have also been calls to name it after Robert Sobukwe.
The airports at Kimberley, East London and Port Elizabeth are also set to be renamed. But it is the renaming of the Cape Town airport that has seen the most heated debate.
According to the Cape Argus, Monday's meeting was chaotic from the get-go, with attendees ignoring the facilitator's pleas for calm before the first speaker had even taken the mic.
About 300 people were reportedly in attendance, and many arrived already fired up.
The EFF sang struggle songs, while another speaker reportedly shouted: "Khoisan heritage to take first preference, or there will be war."
The situation got worse as some speakers outright rejected Madikizela-Mandela's name. A speaker, Ehrahiem Davids, said "Winnie was never part of this country", according to Power FM news.
To which an EFF supporter reportedly replied: "We will not allow anyone to divide us. We are all here because of Winnie Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela."
This reportedly had the crowd on their feet, but the situation only worsened when David Kamfer of the Independent Civic Organisation of SA reportedly said: "We are sick and tired of the Mandelas. We are here to tell people to stand up and say this land belongs to us! We want to take it and change it to Krotoa International Airport."
The situation quickly devolved into violence.
#ImmaculateNews A public renaming process meeting at Cape Town International Airport ended in chaos & was called off last night. Do you think KhoiSan heritage (Sartjie Baartman) must take preference over Winnie Madikizela Mandela? #ImmaculateBreakfast @Sk_Mbatha @KeaMotlokwa pic.twitter.com/lAArtgsLu3— Capricorn FM (@CapricornFM) June 5, 2018
The debate continued to rage on social media. Some people felt that renaming the airport was a waste of money as there was nothing offensive about its current name, and others complained that the entire conversation had become racial and divisive.
Stop wasting money!! We that live in Cape Town like our name, so get lost and leave it simple and paid for!!#Cape Town International Airport!!— Kelvyn (@Kelvyn2755) June 4, 2018
If it's name was 'Hendricks Verwoerd International Airport', I'd be with you.— Alastair McAlpine (@AlastairMcA30) June 4, 2018
But there's nothing 'regressive' about 'Cape Town International'.
Cape Town International Airport renaming. It has become a racial issue. pic.twitter.com/3nJ03SIBuu— Kgauza wa Lecowza (@KgaugeloSM) June 4, 2018
Cape Town International Airport is perfect! Apolitical. Not glorifying any person. Not wasting money. Geographically descriptive. It won't date! Timeless! If you want to honour/glorify people/politicians then erect parks of honour/history and place statues of these people there!— 007 (@bjvd007) June 4, 2018
Social cohesion on the ropes in our beautiful Mzansi🇿🇦! The politicians who are promoting this are playing with 🔥! South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white. Anyone who says otherwise is not interested in the future of this country at all. https://t.co/rFIturvOFZ— Palesa Morudu (@palesa_morudu) June 4, 2018
Many others, however, were adamant that the name should change.
How befitting and unifying if the Cape Town International Airport was to be named after a Khoisan king or hero. #ThinkingOutLoud— NtuthukoMdima🌟 (@Dclantis) June 4, 2018
#CapeTownInternationalAirport#WinnieMadikizelaMandelaAirport— Tsepo (@tsepokhoaeane) June 4, 2018
We all know that Cape Town is the mother city.Let's recognise our female leaders.This is the only thing that we can honour our Mama As she is the mother of the national as @MYANC failed to do while she was alive