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A meanie in iRhini?

Thabo Mbeki has thrown a spanner into the Bafana Bafana works by suggesting that the national team change its name. “Boys, boys” just ain’t good enough for a national side. (Perhaps it’s time that somebody pointed out that the players themselves ain’t good enough for a national side. Ouch!)

It’s not the first time the president has stirred things up in the name-change saga. In fact, he has been a ringing alarm clock in the sleepy town of Grahamstown. He has twice called for the name to go, saying that Colonel John Graham, for whom the settler town is named, was a butcher.

The mayor of Grahamstown flung himself on to the bandwagon and announced that “we are in iRhini, not Grahamstown, and we are correct”. He also said that he didn’t care if it cost two cents or R100-million to change the name — “it will go”.

But, but, but, argue his detractors. The buts are about the costs involved in changing a name, and the effort that will have to go into rebranding the town so that foreign tourists will know where to go when they head to the National Arts Festival. Some but-ists also argue that the powers-that-be are trying to airbrush Graham out of history. However, the argument that seems to have drummed up the most support is one that claims that iRhini just doesn’t roll off white tongues very easily.

After declaring that the name would be changed to iRhini (no ifs or buts), the mayor then announced that he would consult with the people.

The mayor would get support from a number of sectors; unfortunately these constituencies are not likely to be invited to the mayoral imbizos. One of these sectors is sub-editors. The name change will have a profound impact on them. Subs are the word nerds who work behind the scenes, finding homes for misplaced apostrophes and fixing grammar and spelling mistakes. It’s also their job to come up with headlines. Getting Grahamstown into a headline is not easy. Besides, what rhymes with Grahamstown? Exactly.

iRhini, on the other hand, what a pleasure. It’s compact and has lots of rhyming potentials. “Frene in iRhini” would be the headline if Ginwala came to town to interview Jackie Selebi, if the police National Commissioner decided to come here to escape the long arm of the media. If that were to happen, the headline would be: “A meanie seeks refuge in iRhini”. If a new coffee shop, specialising in Italian delights, opened, then Grocott’s Mail‘s headline would be “A trammezini in iRhini” and, continuing with the Italian theme, if we had a foreign film festival, we’d be declaring “Fellini in iRhini” on our front page.

It’s not only sub-editors who stand to gain if “Grahamstown” goes. Printers must be rubbing their hands in glee. Addresses would change, which means people and businesses would need new letterheads and business cards. Ka-ching!

Jews, Muslims and vegetarians are three other constituencies whose opinions are unlikely to be sought. They would no doubt support the name change. The name is offensive and insensitive to people who, on religious and culinary grounds, don’t think names should have any pig content. GraHAMstown. Let’s face it, the name is just not kosher.


  • In 1993, Jonathan Ancer cut his hair, took out his earrings and began compiling research on South Africa's right wing for the Independent Board of Inquiry into Informal Repression. Two years later, he completed a postgraduate journalism diploma at Rhodes University. He then worked as a magazine features writer and freelance journalist. In 2001, he joined the Star as a sub-editor and became night news editor for a year. At the beginning of 2006, he left for Grahamstown to become the youngest editor of the country's oldest newspaper, Grocott's Mail. He left Grahamstown in January for the Mother City. This is an occasional blog -- depending on Ancer's rage factor -- where he rants about the things that get up his nose.