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.

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intrepid's Avatar
intrepid replied to: #2669 08 Apr 2011 07:01
This update from MCSA eNews:

A move to re-name one of the prominent peaks in the Drakensberg after ex-President Mandela was brought to the attention of Cencom by the KwaZulu-Natal Section. The Section requested guidance of MCSA policy in such matters. Cencom in debating the issue did not consider the merits of either the peaks mentioned or of the distinguished person identified with proposed re-naming, but stuck to principle.

Cencom has confirmed that the MCSA does not support the renaming of peaks in general and is wary in particular of attaching the names of any persons to such peaks.

Errol's Avatar
Errol replied to: #2592 22 Mar 2011 14:17
" the native peoples of Southern Africa, from Botswana to the Cape, and from Mozambique to Namibia, are the Bushmen tribes" I couldn't agree more!! The rest of us are pretty much invasive aliens.

I would far rather be reading Bushman names for peaks etc. than any others.
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Oneye replied to: #2591 21 Mar 2011 02:34
Why don't politicians ever name other things after themselves? Like places at the bottom of the ocean, for instance. The Stalin Trench sounds rather appropriate.

Nothing natural should be named after people - not mountains, not comets, not craters on the moon. Man made things, ok. (Streets, buildings, airports.) If you MAKE it, you can call it what you will. If you didn't make it, it's NOT yours. But no one's asking me.

In the Drakensberg, I have always been ashamed that the Bushman names have been erased, and I assume forgotten. Sani Pass is named for them, but I'm sure they didn't call it that. Whatever the political noise, the native peoples of Southern Africa, from Botswana to the Cape, and from Mozambique to Namibia, are the Bushmen tribes, Khoi-San in the literature, both Whites and Nguni are invaders. I believe Khoi refers to herders, and San to hunter-gatherers. The distinguishing feature of their languages was and is of course, the many different clicks, some of which the Zulu and Xhosa adopted.

From my childhood, some of the Zulu names I learned I now suspect are Bushman. Shongalolo, chocho, nunu are three that come to mind. I suspect this because the names are the same in a number of Nguni languages, and not derived from any more Northern African language.

Does anyone know if an account of the Bushman Drakensberg names exists?

I could not even find an online account of the final genocide of the Drakensberg Bushmen, which I was taught happened after the last Anglo-Zulu War (1879) - the British Carbineers massacred them all on orders.

I now live on (former) Ute land at the interface of the Rocky Mountains (Colorado) and the Great American Desert (Utah). The Utes were defeated in 1892 by the US Army that, after the Civil War ended, was turned on the natives. The Utes left plenty of petroglyphs, usually at their winter camps.
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zen101 replied to: #2554 10 Mar 2011 20:48

mnt_tiska wrote: People who go to mountains because of what the mountains are called are the same sort of people who like to eat ice creams and have tea parties near cable way stations.

This must be the most EPIC quote I have read this year, you have a way with words..
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tiska replied to: #2553 10 Mar 2011 09:44
It wouldn't be the first time that the motivation for using Mandela's name was primarily for commercial reasons.
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intrepid replied to: #2552 10 Mar 2011 08:15
Yes, I also heard that the business model for the cable car wasn't strong enough. Interesting enough, if I'm not mistaken, Tungay's brother has had a hand in punting the cable car idea. Increasingly the Berg will face pressures like this since the region has been ear-marked for further tourism development. All the more reason to somehow formulate a strong voice for the Berg's preservation...
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tiska replied to: #2550 10 Mar 2011 07:34
The reason I raised the cable car issue in conjuction with the renaming is that the person who is proposing naming to Mt Mandela is doing so from an economic stand point - i.e. the renaming will put the Drakensberg on the map, get the tourists in and stimulate the local economy. Once they are all there, standing around and looking at their peak, it won't be long before the calls go out to drag their sorry backsides up in a cable car. Previously the cable car issue has been held at bay because the projected numbers of people were simply not sufficient to make the cable way viable. The convergence of prominent name and more punters is what made me think it wouldn't be long after a renaming that we would expect these calls for a cable way too. People who go to mountains because of what the mountains are called are the same sort of people who like to eat ice creams and have tea parties near cable way stations.
intrepid's Avatar
intrepid replied to: #2549 10 Mar 2011 06:42
The cable car idea has been around for several years, candidates being Sentinel, the Mnweni (North Peak of Saddle), and the QwaQwa area. We'll tackle this a little later on this forum - we have to maintain a strong outrage against it. The Mnweni High Berg should be incorporated into the UDP, or at least fall under KZN Wildlife conservation management, that should keep it out of the Mnweni. QwaQwa is more vulnerable...
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tiska replied to: #2539 09 Mar 2011 11:32
and once we have Mnt Malema and Mnt Winnie in place, brace yourself for the cable car......
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fatshark replied to: #2538 09 Mar 2011 09:32
If there is ANY peak that should be renamed to honour Madiba, its TABLE MOUNTAIN. Or Devil's Peak / Lion's Head.
1 - Proximity to Robben Island;
2 - Arguably the most recognisable mountain complex (or geographical feature, period) in the nation. Its as iconic as Big Ben or Statue of Liberty.
3 - Overlooks Tuynhuys, Parliament etc (fitting for such a political figurehead).
4 - Slap bang in the middle of our 2nd biggest city which is also most visited by tourists, therefore more exposure.
5 - Table Mountain is a crap name anyways :evil:

As part of a range with few free-standing peaks, none of the Berg mountains are as iconic, and all are comparatively out-of-the-way.

As to the thought of other politicians getting peaks renamed after themselves, its awful. But its one thing to rename a road - change a few signs and after a couple of years everyone adopts the new name. (anyone here still call Beyers Naude drive "DF Malan"?) But new political names for mountains? That would be far more difficult to get people to adopt. The hiking/climbing fraternity wouldn't, and I can't see the local Ngwane giving a rats ass if they were told that the mountain in whose shadow they've lived for centuries is suddenly changed.

(personally, i'd only refer to the new name when nature calls, as in "sorry chaps, need to go take a dump on Mount <you know who>" :whistle: - Mandela obviously excluded)
tiska's Avatar
tiska replied to: #2537 09 Mar 2011 08:26
Well here we go - the politicians are going to be queueing up for their bit of basalt.

Some interesting comments from Martin Winter:
Another letter writer Martin Winter says: “The history of the naming of Cathkin Peak is an interesting one that dates back to 1863, so surely this should be left to stand.

“It is no way politically offensive and it is part of the history of the mountain, having been named by people with a keen interest in the mountain at the time.

“It would indeed be unwise to set a precedent of renaming Drakensberg peaks after prominent South Africans no matter how great their services may have been.

“A present or future authority could well ignore or over-ride years of pioneering history that had gone before.”

Winter notes that Cathkin Peak features frequently in the Journals of the Mountain Club of South Africa that commenced in 1897.

“The first ascent of Cathkin Peak in 1912 would have been recorded in the annals of the Drakensberg Club formed in 1910 and later in 1919, by the Natal Mountain Club.

“The naming, and particularly the renaming of peaks in the Drakensberg, should be the concern of those organisations whose aims are, amongst others, 'to initiate and support the actions towards the protecting the natural beauty and wilderness character of the mountains', or at the very least, in consultation with them.”


I have a great deal of respect for Mr Winter. I cannot say the same for any politicians.
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intrepid replied to: #2536 09 Mar 2011 07:53
Attached is a PDF containing 3 different articles from the media on this proposal.

MOTH have suggested that Cathkin be renamed Mount Mandela, since Sterkhon/Mount Memory was an important memorial to them. Sentinel is now also considered to have "merit" to get this new name.

Furthermore, Tungay has also proposed that Sterkhorn's middle summit be named "Mount Mendi" after the ship that collided with with another ship in dense fog during World War I, killing 607 people on board. Honestly, of all names to propose, this one seems way off!

Considering the points made on this thread, and ongoing email conversations I've had with various people, I have to say I increasingly don't like where this is heading. We've seen enough renaming in our country, and Sterkhorn and Cathkin are neutral names that have a very long history. If anything, lets rather call Cathkin by its other name, Mdedelelo. This also sets a precedent for renaming of other peaks, and the thought of having a Mount Malema or a Mount Winnie, is a thought which concerns many, and given some of preposterous ideas already tolerated by our government, this doesn't seem far off.

I also do not appreciate that Mr Tungay feels that between him and the the MOTH organisation these kind of decisions can be made. There are many other stakeholders, let alone the MCSA, many hiking clubs, and the community represented on this site - the people who are well acquainted with these peaks.
tiska's Avatar
tiska replied to: #2435 18 Feb 2011 11:10
ST's post about Mponjwane's previous name reminds me that the Rockeries were thought of as the Cathedral and the 'now Mponj' as the Cathedral Tower - which makes sense when viewed from the north. The carto work in about 1910 got all of that wrong.

The reason I raised the issue about Mponj and Cathedral was that we could expect the name changing in the case of Cathdral Peak to be hugely resisted because of the hotel. I can't imagine Mponjwane Peak Hotel and Golf Course, spa and trout hatchery catching on in quite the same way to Euro tourists or anyone else who can afford a plate of sandwiches on the terrace.

So if we expect the efforts from commercial interests resisting name changes to be recognised, then the clmbing/hiking community, who get to know the peaks so much more intimately, should really get even greater recognition. Of course they rarely do.
tiska's Avatar
tiska replied to: #2433 18 Feb 2011 09:19
In 1947 Sterkhorn was declared a National War Memorial by the Moth association and co-named Mount Memory. This was done to commemorate sacrifice and peace post WWII - lest we forget - and it seems we have.
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Serious tribe replied to: #2432 17 Feb 2011 23:04
@ mnt_tiska

We could call Cath Peak by it original name, we would then have to name the present incorrectly named Mponjwane by its original name of Ntabamabutho which means the 'mountains of the warriors'. It also includes the Rockeries, perhaps that is the line of warriors marching. I think with a lot peaks, it was to much Mahewu or Whiskey that lead to some of the more interesting names, depends on which part of the cultural divide you sat.

I think that without politicizing it, Mandela gave up a lot, and could have been belligerent, however the character of the man was gracious, humble and peaceable. I don't have an issue with him getting a prominent peak, what about NthabaMadiba or NthabaMandela. In his case, I think he deserves the recognition. This though should not open a flood gate of name changes. The Zulu names should stay, as they are historical, and give the area its originality and flavour. A lot of the English names relate to the early pioneers who opened up the Drakensberg by exploring the area, and for that reason they should stay.

The other thing that needs to be taken into account are the naming requirements and protocol in World Heritage areas.
zen101's Avatar
zen101 replied to: #2430 17 Feb 2011 13:14
Naming a peak after our Hero Mandela will also increase visitors (local and foreign) to this mount - This could translate into greater amounts of litter and erosion. Perhaps even a Sun international holiday resort.
tiska's Avatar
tiska replied to: #2426 17 Feb 2011 09:59
To reply to Magan's thoughts - I would have no problem with reverting to some of the old Zulu names. Interestingly, Cathedral Peak would then need to be renamed Mponjwane, as many who have spent time talking to the old men in Mnweni will know. The mountain we know as Mponjwane, near the Rockeries, was a cartographic error.

The issue is that the 'big' men in politics who control all this renaming are not going to do something as generous as reverting to the originals - where they existed. They want to see themselves up there. Why settle for a 150m statue like Shaka has to when you can get 3200m worth?

The real problem, you see, is that politicians lie. And you can't lie to mountains.
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Magan replied to: #2423 17 Feb 2011 09:03
While my 1st instinct is to be anti- name change to that which I have grown up with and accustomed to, I can understand where this comes from. Our country has come thro a peaceful transition (consider the rest of turbulent Africa and our very own diverse and antagonistic history), and why not a national hero being honoured in SA’s greatest Mountain Range. Infact I think a peak that is more identifiable with the Berg, eg Cathedral Peak be worthy of being renamed Mt Mandela.

In the creation of a New South Africa we cannot exempt pockets eg WH sites from being involved cos as a whole : the People, the places, the natural resources, its everything that makes SA what it is today.
Its not a matter of bringing politics into The Berg.. it’s a matter of honouring those who sacrificed family and life so that you and I can live a life free of persecution (lets face it, we could easily have degenerated into a Zim). Cos the scary thought is that you and your family could be living in the Berg outta necessity rather than as we do now for pleasant getaway option. Think “what if …”. That considered, a name change is a small inconvenience to bear for those who don’t readily accept it. This name change will have more South Africans identifying with The Berg and all the benefits that come with it.
We should embrace being part of the creation of a New Nation that makes it inclusive for all and to all places in our land and not hold onto sentiments of the past.
So, whilst I cant pronounce some new Town names and love the way some old one’s rolled off my tongue, I accept and approve of the reasoning behind the name changes.

Looking back in the History of the Berg, many local names (note I said “many” not “all” ) were discarded in favour of English names. So, who considers the opinions of the locals who I think rightfully has traditional naming rights to the Berg and its peaks ? So now many want to hold onto ‘stolen’ names .... double standards methinks !

To summarise : if u accepted name changes to as we know them now, accept the new ones. If u condemn the proposed changes then condemn the change from the traditional names as well.

I say call it what you will, The Berg will always remain beautiful to me. A rose by any other name …….

Just my 2c worth … take it, leave it ……
domsmooth's Avatar
domsmooth replied to: #2422 16 Feb 2011 20:09
Following on from mnt_Tiska's brilliant intro to what other peaks we could rename, perhaps there are other wise sages in this forum who could suggest a couple more for laughs..?

My personal opinion on this topic is that a world heritage site should not be entertaining name changes of international icons such as Sterkhorn (the peak, not the user above.. ;) ). By all means, give names to new housing developments etc, but icons such as this should remain with their old name. Besides, what does the name "Sterkhorn" have to do with the apartheid era anyway that it should be renamed. It is as bad as my complaint against "longmarket rd" in Pmb being renamed to Langalibelele Rd. I could possibly understand a name associated with the apartheid leaders at the time being changed, but longmarket....? Same thought in my mind with Sterkhorn....
intrepid's Avatar
intrepid replied to: #2420 16 Feb 2011 08:36
Can you imagine being a Basotho shepherd sitting up on a ridge watching this lot!

Certainly some of the wasteful and unnecessary renaming of things we've seen in this country should be kept out of the Berg. Judging by comments here and some private email conversations many in the Berg community are not happy with this proposal. What matters more to me than renaming is that this community had a voice which bears weight.

More thoughts and responses here guys....

@Sterkhorn: anytime you want to change your profile name to "Mount Zuma" just let me know :laugh:
Sterkhorn's Avatar
Sterkhorn replied to: #2416 15 Feb 2011 20:32
Sorry, link didn't work.

I think the peak already has an historical identity as a memorial to some. It would be sad to see it changed.

So does that mean I will have to change my profile? :dry:
Sterkhorn's Avatar
Sterkhorn replied to: #2415 15 Feb 2011 20:26
I remember the occasion well, but don't recall anything in the press about it. It was big news for the community in the valley. I remember somebody from one of the resorts near the airforce base recounting the numerous trips to ferry equipment to the top. They also told of one of the loads of a hanging net of chairs coming loose and ending up in one of the remote valleys somewhere.
The only reference I found was in a government website:
Stijn's Avatar
Stijn replied to: #2409 15 Feb 2011 06:38
I believe the concert was held on the escarpment near Champagne Castle. No online references as the story was told to me by the Master-in-Charge of our hiking club at Pretoria Boys High School, some 10 years ago. This is the first I have heard of it since then.

Off topic I know, but since the Berg community tends to be quite a small world, I'll give it a shot anyway: This master-in-charge was Mr Craig Ford, a springbok scout and originally from Howick. Does anybody know of him (or does he perhaps trawl these forums)? He introduced me to the Berg on a 6-day hike up Organ Pipes, down Gray's and back along the contour path back in Dec 2000.
intrepid's Avatar
intrepid replied to: #2405 15 Feb 2011 05:45
:laugh: that started off my day with a good laugh mnt_tiska! Good point, no-one else comes to mind, but I think Mandela will probably live-on well beyond his death. Isn't there some prominent un-named buttress we could name after him...?

zen, I had never heard of that concert before. Haven't found any other references to it.
tiska's Avatar
tiska replied to: #2404 14 Feb 2011 22:11
I have nothing in particular against Mandela, not having ever met him, but politicians and passing news generally must stay out of the Drakensberg history and heritage. Otherwise expect the floodgates to open. Here are just a few possibilities:

Madonna and her worshippers: Zuma and all his wives
Mbundini Buttress: Malema’s Butt
Mnweni Cutback : Rajbansi’s Double-Cut-Back
Mlambonja Pass : Mlambomlungu Pass
Devil’s Tooth : Manto Tshabalala's Fang
Cock-ade: Dirk-Prinsloo Heights
Champagne Castle : Kenny Kunene’s Sushi
Judge Pass: Hlope Pass
Gatberg: His Holiness DesmondBerg
Western Triplet: South-South Triplet (formerly Imperialist Triplet)
Ntabamhlope: NthaboMbeki
Spioenkop: Bloody Agent Peak