South Africa's Identity Crisis, change name to Mapungubwe

From the xenophobia of 2008 to 2015, to the continued failure of South Africa to engage the rest of Africa as a regional power, it has become clear to me that South Africa suffers from an identity crisis. All nations know where their names came from - where did "South Africa" come from?

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It is time South Africa let go of its colonial legacy and adopted a more African name to its lands? We have the example of Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe in the region. 


We are also informed by those who practice African religions that the ancestors speak native languages and not English; how then is the land South Africa blessed? Do ancestors know what is South Africa? The name of a country is an important first step, whether its Kenya or Switzerland it communicates the inhabitant and the owner; the people and their heritage; history and understanding. The name Israel is Hebrew and is taken from the Torah for the Jewish Nation.


Before South Africa was so called it used to be called Mzantsi by the Xhosa; or the various Kingdoms from Zulu to Sotho called it Mzansi. During the liberation struggle some Africanist called it Azania - this never caught on. Another suggestions in light of Lesotho and Swaziland were Nguniland reflecting the majority nature of the Nguni ( Xhosa, Zulu, Ndebele, and Swati) in South Africa. The Tswana have a land as well in the region mind you - Bo-Tswana.

Perhaps it is time in the understanding of Franz Fanon, the social theorist, to stop wearing a white mask over a black face. South Africa is Mzansi Africa. Its name like Italy, Israel and German should reflect its people. It will be a healing debate for the nation known as South Africa to undergo a name change. Why should South Africa be nameless and not use the name of its ancestry? Sometimes I think South Africa does itself a disservice by trying to reject its Africanness, the wearing of this white mask creates anxiety and mental confusion.

The name Mapungubwe at once recognizes one impressive ancestor in the region, could possibly bring South Africa back to a part of its African identity.

Some will argue that a name does not mean you are African. This is not true because Africans consider the loss of an African surname and mispronunciation as tantamount to suicide, especially South Africans. Now, if other nations use and call themselves by their traditional names why should South Africa be treated as a pet project that was only named after the Dutch colonized it.

The systematic regaining of self confidence and healing of the Bantu will require minor steps, and renaming is one of them. Another is African art, especially statutory and painting.

In actuality if the truth be told, the name South Africa is a lie - South Africa is not Southern Africa as a region, it is the tip of the Southern most part of Africa. It is the most Southern country in Africa -- this is really what was intended. So this tip in Africa must be named by its African name, its ancestral name! South Africa is uniquely blessed because its tribal nations fall within certain territorial boundaries, it is the land of numerous distinct tribal nations at their very progeny, the most famous of which is Zulu.


Ken Sibanda, is an American Constitutional Attorney and movie director. He is the author of the play - The Tragic Circumstances of 1948
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