With liberation in South Africa, as is often the case when liberation happens, people decided to change some place names. That’s all very well, but it does mean that one can get terribly lost.
Some years ago, I was heading for the town that most people still call ‘Bloemfontein’ and nearly missed the turning, because I’d forgotten that it was now called ‘Manguang’. This incident motivated me to learn all the new place names and to remember that maybe the old ones are offensive.
About two years ago, I went to Sweden on a training course. There was another course running at the same time, and at one point the organizers decided that the delegates should meet. Of course, I made a beeline for the South Africans and we did the ‘Well I never! Fancy meeting you here!’ routines that countrymen do when they encounter each other abroad.
One of the ladies (a black one, as most South Africans are) told me that she came from a research institute that I knew was in Pretoria. No… not Pretoria… new name… so I said:
‘Oh! You’re from the town I grew up in, Tshwane!’ and she said
‘Yes, I’m from Pretoria’
So much for being politically aware and sensitive to people’s feelings! I must say that Microsoft has a bit of a problem there since spell check recognizes ‘Pretoria’, but not ‘Tshwane’.
I bet Bill Gates gets lost on the way to Manguang!