It doesn’t seem possible, but it was nearly seven years ago that the battle with Durban’s street names began. In an effort to acknowledge some of South Africa’s history that was conveniently forgotten during apartheid, a number of Durban’s street names were changed in 2007. The changes were not however taken well, and lengthy court battles and lively public discussions ensued. People went so far as to black out the new road names with spray paint, or paste the old names over the new signs with paper. But time has passed, tempers have calmed and people are slowly adjusting to the changes, so it might be a good time to look at some of our ‘new’ road names – at who these people are who now make up our city streets, and why they deserve to have their names etched in history.
There were quite a few road name changes, too many to consider in one go, so today we’ll just look at one name, withe the aim of re-visiting the topic over the next few months. We thought that we’d start with one that seems to stick easily in people’s minds, that is Cowey Road, now re-named Problem Mkhize.
Louis Problem Mkhize was a trade unionist, MK member and colonel in the SANDF.
Mkhize was born in 1940, and died in 2006 after having spent most of his adult life in exile as a member of the armed wing of the ANC, Umkhonto weSizwe (MK). He joined the MK in 1962 and underwent military training in Egypt and Russia. As a commander Mkhize traveled to a number of African countries, fighting against South Africa in 1967 during the Wankie campaign. He returned to South Africa shortly before the first democratic elections in April 1994, and was was integrated into the South African National Defence Force in 1995. He was promoted to the rank of colonel and sent to work as Deputy Intelligence Officer in Pietersburg. He remained in that post until the end of 1996 when he was transferred to the Natal Command as Deputy Chief of Communications. He served in this position from December 1996 to August 2000. In 2005 Mkhize was medically boarded from the SANDF, and he passed away a year later in 2006.
Photograph courtesy of photos-durban.blogspot.com.