South African Names

South African names are steeped in so much meaning and significance. Many (if not almost all) of them are words or terms that are used directly in everyday language. Here are a few of my favourites, along with (related) facts about the people known by them:

Rolihlahla‘the Branch-Breaker/Trouble-Maker’.
The first name of Nelson Mandela (‘Nelson’ was a name given to him at school). Mandela was one of the founders uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) and was sentenced, in 1964 along with other freedom-fighters , to life imprisonment for his involvement in the struggle against apartheid.

Dalibhunga: ‘Convener of the Council’.
Another name given to Mandela after completing the Xhosa rite of passage into manhood. Mandela initiated the discussions that eventually led to the ending of apartheid in South Africa. In 1994, he became the country’s first democratically elected President and was at the helm of its first democratically elected Government and Parliament until his retirement in 1994 (thus, in a sense the convener of the nation’s first democratic council).

Bantu: ‘People’.
Bantu Stephen Biko, leader of Black Consciousness Movement, has gone down in the books of history as one of South Africa’s greatest  activists, intellectuals, and philosophers. His philosophies on Consciousness – although directed at black South Africans – are, to this day, relevant and important for the empowerment of all South Africans. A quote from the collection of his writings titled ‘I Write What I Like’: “In time, we shall be in a position to bestow on South Africa the greatest possible gift – a more human face”.

Dumakude: ‘Renowned/Known in distance places’.
My father’s name. After a successful behind-the-scenes Broadway career in the United States, he returned to South Africa where his work in television would go on (and still continues) to make a profound impact not just on the industry, but also on South African culture. His work has reached some of the biggest cities in the world, and some of the most remote villages in South Africa.

Nganani: ‘How great are you’.
My (maternal) grandfather ‘s name. Born a humble person,  to a humble family, near the humble town of Barberton; by the end of his life (at the young age of 58), he had hada great influence on the lives of many, many people; including my own.

Zanokuhle: ‘You come with (something) good.
Given to me by my grandparents. Other names I have been given are Manqoba (‘conquerer’) and Gence (‘an axe’)**. They are a constant reminder to strive to be humble and courageous.

Sure, not everyone has a positive or even meaningful name – by no means does your name decide your fate in life. Names are only really as significant as we want them to be, but all of them tell a story. It’s up to you to find the positivity in your name, and it’s entirely up to you to make it come true.

According to Tara Long from DNews on YouTube, “it’s generally agreed that the outcome your name has on your success levels is pretty negligable. In the long run, your own personal efforts can easily outweigh the impact of your name”.

What’s your favourite name? What does your name mean? Would you give your children (or yourself) any of these names?



Nelson Mandela:
‘What Does Your Name Say About You?’ (Video):

*The word ‘ubuntu’ derives from the Nguni word abantu (‘people’). A person is said to have ubuntu when they show proactive kindness and compassion towards others in a way that recognises and uplifts their personhood.
**There is a great story behind this name, which I hope to add to this article soon.

About uzanokuhle

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