However, the proposal could receive resistance from the King Sabata Dalindyebo (KSD) Local Municipality, which for years has been lobbying to have Mthatha Airport named after Mandela.
The potential name change was discussed at a mayoral committee meeting yesterday, but was not pushed through as mayor Athol Trollip said there were too many unanswered questions.
“There is a lot of confusion about what the city is called, not only abroad and for tourists, but for people in the city.
“There are people who live in Uitenhage, Despatch and Motherwell, and other parts of the city, who do not feel part of Port Elizabeth,” Trollip said.
“We need to really brand our identity as Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality and this would help us tremendously to reinforce having an airport named after Nelson Mandela.”
He said it was important for the city to stake its claim as the KSD Municipality was keen to name Mthatha Airport after Mandela.
Previously, during former mayor Ben Fihla’s term, it was mooted that the airport be named after Sipho Hashe – one of the slain Pebco Three members abducted at the airport in 1985 by apartheid-era security police.
It is unclear if a decision was ever taken by the council to name the airport after Hashe, with Trollip saying yesterday that they could not find any such council resolution.
Sports, recreation, arts and culture political head Siyasanga Sijadu said the department preferred to have the airport named after Mandela.
“We are in the process of branding ourselves globally as the only city in the world that is named after an iconic hero – Nelson Mandela – and the only city to have an institution named after Nelson Mandela.
“We believe that our airport ought also to be named after him.”
Councillors agreed, saying it was an opportunity to market the city.
Economic development, agriculture and tourism political head Andrew Whitfield said it was important to consider synergy when renaming the airport.
“I think because we are Nelson Mandela Bay our airport needs to reflect that name.”
Eastern Cape Sports, Recreation and Arts and Culture MEC Pemmy Majodina said the two municipalities were yet to submit their applications to her department.
“Both municipalities have not yet informed me of the resuscitation of the processes,” she said.
“However, they know what procedures to follow.”
A decision on pursuing the name-change was deferred for further investigation.
By Siyamtanda Capa – HeraldLIVE