After months of consultations with local stakeholders and residents in all the nine local municipalities, the process of renaming the Cacadu District Municipality to Sarah Baartman District Municipality is well and truly underway.
“The majority of the communities have supported this name change”, said the Cacadu District Municipality Speaker, Deon de Vos.
Sarah Baartman is considered a synonymous with the commitment to democracy by the South African Government. Baartman, of Khoikhoi descent, was laid to rest in Hankey along the banks of the Gamtoos River on 9 August 2002. She became orphaned when her family was subsequently taken to Cape Town as a slave. At the age of 20, in 1810, William Dunlop, a British ship doctor, took her to London. There she was put on display as a human novelty, due to the fascination of the Europeans with her body shape.
Her inhumane treatment was exposed and a court case was brought in her defence by the African Association, an antislavery group in London. When she could no longer be displayed in London, she was sold to an animal trainer in France, who sold her as if she were a circus animal. She died of respiratory illness in Paris in 1815, after which her body was dissected by a scientist named George Cuvier, Napoleon’s surgeon-general.
A body cast was made of her corpse and her body parts were put on display until 1974. In 1994, President Nelson Mandela appealed to the French Government for the return of the remains of Sarah Baartman from the Musee del’Homme in Paris. It was only in 2002 that the French Government finally agreed. On October 2002, the former President, Thabo Mbeki, declared the grave of Sarah Baartman a national heritage site.
“So there is general understanding of the suffering that she went through and the name change will be our way to honour her”, described De Vos.
A report has been compiled documenting the objections and comments from the communities that we consulted with. The report will be submitted to Council for consideration, where after we will follow the legal processes and submit a request to the MEC for Local Government and Traditional Affairs to conclude the process” said de Vos.