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Nelson Mandela University George Campus successfully kick-started its Naming and Renaming process this week with a dialogue session panelled by local historians to community members, staff and students.

This follows the successful launch of the institutional Naming and Renaming Project in May, which saw the unveiling of eight Port Elizabeth campus residences renamed after some of the country’s liberation icons.

Led by historian and heritage practitioner, Prof Denver Webb – who also heads the University’s Strategic Resource Mobilisation Office – and three local historians namely, Jeremy van Wyk, Sydney Opperman and history and political sciences graduate, Ronny Nyuka.

The dialogue explored the histories of the Western Cape city of George and its surrounding area, while highlighting the principles and criteria of the Naming and Renaming Policy.

Panellist Sydney Opperman, who is a former educator, politician, pastoral minister and spiritual teacher, unpacked Nelson Mandela’s clan name “Madiba”. He began his talk by unpacking the root of the clan name, which is “Diba”.

“Diba”, in the isiXhosa language, is a root word commonly used in words such as “Ukudibanisa” (to combine) and “Dibana” (come together). “As you embark on this journey of naming and renaming, I thought equally important to remember your namesake and what he stood for”, he said.

The dialogue, which took place as the University wraps up its year-long centenary programme and as the Naming and Renaming process continues, essentially  sets the foundation and tone of how stakeholders are encouraged to think progressively, carefully and contextually when putting forth names they wish to have the campus named after.

Stakeholders in attendance, in particular students, actively engaged the panel on the historical context of the campus’s name and how relevant it is in modern, democratic South Africa, at a university named after icon Nelson Mandela.

The institutional Naming and Renaming Project is a critical part of the University’s transformation and identity building process, and flows from the launch of the University’s new name and identity in 2017.

The University name change provided an enabling environment and an opportunity to pro-actively build social cohesion and contribute to the transformation and decolonising project at the University.

Pictured at the Dialogue (from left to right); Panellist Jeremy van Wyk, Veliswa Mbenenge (Programme Facilitator), David Alexander (Acting Campus Principal), Ronny Nyuka (Panellist), Karabo Yeki (LSRC Premier),  Prof Denver Webb (Lead Panellist & Director Strategic Resource Mobilisation Office) and Sydney Opperman (Panellist).

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Ms Zandile Mbabela
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