The ANC in Johannesburg says the city council has initiated the process to rename William Nicol Drive in Sandton to Winnie Mandela Drive.

According to the party, the move follows years of petitions and proposals for the move.

The ANC formally started the process to rename the road in March 2021, with a public comment phase on the proposal running until April 2021.

At the time, the city said the change was generally welcomed but “noted” some negative sentiment around the idea.

At the time of the proposals, the late and former mayor of Joburg, Geoffry Makhubo defended the move, saying that it was important to rename streets and places to remind residents of the history of the country.

“Names carry history. They say something about those whose contributions are deemed worthy of a public and multi-generational memory. These are by their very nature contentious and that is why they must always be treated with the sensitivity they deserve,” he said.

“This renaming of one of the city’s iconic landmarks is as a result of the council’s commitment to social transformation and cohesion. It symbolises the immeasurable commitment of Mama Winnie to the struggle for humanity and liberation of our country.”

Makhubo passed away in July 2021 due to complications with Covid-19.

William Nicol was the administrator of the former Transvaal from 1948 to 1958, during the road’s construction.

According to the Heritage Portal, the name “William Nicol Drive” was never officially given to the road, and it was known as the Bryanston Highway, alias William Nicol, with the official designation P79/1.

Nicol was a Dutch Reformed minister, theologian and educator who championed Afrikaans and Afrikaans-medium education in South Africa.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid activist and politician, and the second wife of former president Nelson Mandela.

She held several positions in government. She passed away in 2018.

Name changes in South Africa are a contentious issue, with varying perspectives – both political and economic – on the moves. The country has seen some significant changes in recent years, most notably the changing of Port Elizabeth to Gqeberha in 2019.