CoJ wants input on renaming William Nicol Drive after Winnie Mandela

Last year, it was announced that the city would begin this official process, which could not happen without first receiving official support or objections from the very members of the public who used one of Johannesburg's most well-known roads.

FILE: The late ANC stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela looks on as she is greeted by Women's League supporters gathered in Soweto on 26 September 2016 to celebrate her 80th birthday. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - The City of Joburg is officially kicking off its project on the possible renaming of William Nicol Drive after the late anti-apartheid struggle icon, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and it wants residents to have their say.

In September last year, it was announced that the city would begin this official process, which could not happen without first receiving official support or objections from the very members of the public who used one of Johannesburg's most well-known roads.

That process is now in full swing and comments can be sent in via email. Here are the details on how to participate:

WHO WAS WILLIAM NICOL?

Born on 23 March, 1887 in the Western Cape (then known as the Cape Colony) town of Robertson, Nicol was an apartheid-era administrator of the Transvaal Province (which covered what is today known as Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga).

He was also a minister in the Dutch Reformed Church and a founding member of the Afrikaner Broederbond, subsequently becoming chairman of the secret organisation, which many of apartheid's founders belonged to, from 1924 to 1925.

In the 1940s, at the dawn of apartheid, he authored a book titled Regverdige Rasse-Apartheid which provided reasons why apartheid should be implemented.

In the 1940s, a new route linking Bryanston and other emerging northern Johannesburg suburbs was needed to create easier access for drivers.

At the time, this road was simply termed the Bryanston Highway (officially P79/1). Legend has it that Nicol then named the road after himself, but this isn't quite true because William Nicol Drive was officially named that 30 years after it was built (and had been known as P79/1 all along) and a few years after Nicol's death in 1967.

Another theory alleges that someone else did the honours of naming it since Nicol was the administrator at the time.

Either way, this process will likely see another colonial/apartheid-era name done away with (rightly so) among the thousands currently existing across South Africa.

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