This is how you pronounce Gqeberha, the new name for PE

By Sihle Mlambo 7m in the past

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Johannesburg – GQE-BE-RHA, Gqeberha!

This is the name/phrase that has been scorching on the lips of many South Africans since Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa accepted and gazetted Gqeberha as the new name of Port Elizabeth.

It has trended at the prime of the Twitter charts.

Gqeberha was the isiXhosa name for the Baakens River, and was additionally the isiXhosa name of the Walmer township in Port Elizabeth.

Since the name was proposed two years in the past, there have been protestations, with some folks complaining that they have no idea how to pronounce it, whereas others have mentioned they haven’t any want to pronounce it correctly.

“I’ll stick to PE”, they protest on-line.

IOL spoke to Dr Sebolelo Mokapela, head of division for African Language research at the University of Western Cape.

Mokapela is a linguistics knowledgeable and on her LinkedIn profile she explains the significance of language in society:

“Language is more than just a means of communication. Language is culture. Language is identity. Language is you, me, you and me, us.

“Language has more power to shape a community, a society, a people. Losing your language is losing you.

“Embracing multilingualism and advocating for its realisation are things I am passionate about,” she writes.

The different name adjustments to happen in the Eastern Cape are:


Port Elizabeth/Gqeberha

Port Elizabeth Airport/Chief Dawid Stuurman International Airport

East London Airport/King Phalo International Airport



King William’s Town/Qonce


The new names for the Eastern Cape cities and airports, based on the PE-based Herald newspaper, had been proposed to honour the Xhosa, Khoi and San folks.

It was Boy Lamani of KwaMgxaki who proposed the name Gqeberha as an alternative for PE.

“Gqeberha — which is the isiXhosa name for Walmer Township — is one of the first and oldest Port Elizabeth townships.

“Initially Walmer was called Gqeberha but because the Walmer name became prominent as industrialisation grew, Gqeberha lost its popularity.

“Peter Mkata, John Masiza, Makhaya Jack, and the Majola surname are just a few of the families that originated in Gqeberha,” he was quoted as saying by the Herald.

Gqeberha was additionally the name of the Baakens River.

In an interview with IOL on Wednesday, Mokapela mentioned most of the adjustments could possibly be traced again to landmarks and to not people.

In the case of Gqeberha, she mentioned it was the IsiXhosa name of the Baakens River close to Port Elizabeth.

“They have decided to change the name and use the original name. If you look at all the new names that were used before and they referred to the rivers that people lived nearby, this is what people used to call these places before, there was a strong reliance on using landmarks to name places and not individuals,” Mokapela mentioned.

“They have tried to go back to the traditional ways of naming places like they did before” she mentioned.

Mokapela mentioned though she had her reservations about the timing of the name adjustments, it was largely a very good factor.

“It is good because these names carry history with it. However, if the government is doing this they must do this and give the history behind it so that people can be able to relate with it.

“We can look at this as a process of redefining ourselves, so in that sense it is good to use landmarks instead of people’s names.

“This is how our forefathers used to refer to our places,” she mentioned.

In the brief historical past of the new South Africa, there have been a number of name adjustments in the types of cities, roads, freeways, rivers, cities, airports or provinces, and so they all sometimes take a very long time to set in, some longer than others.

Many to this present day nonetheless discuss with KwaZulu-Natal as “the Natal”, the apartheid and colonial name for the province, notably folks from the Transvaal (now generally known as Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and North West).

But in some situations, new names do rub off sooner than others.

One instance is Limpopo province, renamed from Northern Province in 2002, with its capital metropolis, Polokwane, previously generally known as Pietersburg.

Mokapela agrees that occasions and promoting helps, and in the case of Polokwane, the hotly contested 2007 ANC elective convention befell in Polokwane.

As a end result, it is also known as the Polokwane convention and everybody is aware of precisely what is being referred to.

“The constant use of the name will help, people can get used to it faster.

“Even if you can throw some satire into that, that will definitely help in getting the names out there, so creating entertainment and events also helps, but of course we have the Covid-19 problem at the moment,” she mentioned.


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