A call has been made to rename Sterkhorn, in the Monk's Cowl area, Central Drakensberg, to "Mount Mandela" in honour of Nelson Mandela. This proposal was put forward in a recent speech by John Tungay, founder of the Drakensberg Boys Choir School.
In the clipping from a local paper reporting the above, forwarded to me over the weekend, some interesting details were provided on the 75th Anniversary of the South African Air Force:
"Mr. Tungay recalled how in 1995, to mark the 75th Anniversary of the South African Air Force, President Mandela was airlifted by helicopter past Sterkhorn to one of the highest level points in the mountains where a concert was given in his honour, attended by 300 dignitaries including the then Minister of Defence, Ronnie Casrils.
Powerful SAAF helicopters air-lifted a concert platform, a piano, a portable kitchen and toilets to the mountain site. Tuning of the piano at such a great altitude was referred to the Guinness Book of Records. Three choirs were involved in the 75th Anniversary exercise: The Drakensberg Boys Choir, the SAAF "Canaries" and the President's own choir "Cantu Malongi" conducted by George Mxadana.
Bunny Ashley-Botha, former Director of Music at the Drakensberg Boys Choir School for 27 years, said that the idea for this concert emanated from a complaint he made to the head of the Air Force that helicopters operating from their mountain base at adjacent Dragons Peak Park were making such a thundering noise over the choir school that it disturbed the training of the choirs. He was informed that "something would be done" to apologise for the noise of the helicopter operations."
It is not mentioned where this "highest point" was. Maybe on the escarpment near Champagne Castle?
What does the community think of the proposal for Sterkhorn to be renamed "Mount Mandela"? To name something in our Drakensberg in honour of Nelson Mandela, arguably the most renowned leader in the world, is not a bad idea in itself. So far I am only aware of an easy ice-climbing route called "Madiba's Choice" near the Lotheni Couilor. In British Columbia, Canada, a peak has already been named Mount Mandela in his honour.
But should it be Sterkhorn? Certainly a very grand, iconic peak - and incidentally the first technical peak ever climbed in the Berg! To be honest, it took me a while to get used to the name "Sterkhorn", but now it is an established name, and how easy will it be for us to change our association of the name with this majestic free-stander, with its fascinating spires and triple-summit? Regardless of the outcome, it is hoped that any renaming process would be done with the participation of the people who hike and climb under the shadow of this lovely mountain.