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South Africa -- Changes in Town and Geographical Names

Since the first democratic election in South Africa in 1994, a number of changes have been made to geographical names in the country. It can get a bit confusing, as mapmakers struggle to keep up, and road signs aren"t immediately changed. In many instances, the "new" names were existing ones used by parts of the population; others are new municipal entities. All name changes have to be approved by the South African Geographical Names Council, which is responsible for standardizing geographical names in South Africa.

One of the first major changes was the redivision of the country into eight provinces, rather than the existing four (Cape Province, Orange Free State, Transvaal, and Natal ). The Cape Province divided into three (Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and Northern Cape), the Orange Free State became the Free State, Natal was renamed KwaZulu-Natal, and the Transvaal was divided into Gauteng, Mpumalanga (initially Eastern Transvaal), Northwest Province, and Limpopo Province (initially Northern Province).

Gauteng, which is the industrial and mining heartland of South Africa, is a Sesotho word meaning "at the gold". Mpumalanga means "the east" or "the place where the sun rises," an apt name for South Africa"s eastern-most province. (To pronounce the "Mp," imitate how the letters are said in the English word "jump.") Limpopo is also the name of the river forming the northern-most boundary of South Africa.

Among the towns renamed were some named after leaders significant in Afrikaner history. So Pietersburg, Louis Trichard, and Potgietersrust became, respectively, Polokwane, Makhoda, and Mokopane (the name of a king). Warmbaths changed to Bela-Bela, a Sesotho word for hot spring.

Other changes include:

Several new municipal and megacity boundaries have been created. The City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality covers cities such as Pretoria, Centurion, Temba, and Hammanskraal. The Nelson Mandela Metropole covers the East London/Port Elizabeth area.

Cape Town is known as eKapa. Johannesburg is called eGoli,

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