The African National Congress (ANC) has reignited calls to rename Sandton Drive after Leila Khaled, an activist and member of the resistance movement Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
The ANC in the Greater Johannesburg region launched the petition this week and picketed outside the US Consulate on Thursday.
The petition has been supported by ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula, who posted a video on his X account, saying the petition was supported by Luthuli House.
“We support the renaming of Sandton Drive to Leila Khaled Drive, not yesterday, today,” he said.
[WATCH] My name is Fikile Mbalula, the Secretary General of the ANC. I have signed a petition in support of the renaming of Sandton Drive to Leila Khaled Drive. We implore residents of The City of Johannesburg to sign the petition and support the renaming #LeilaKhaledDrive pic.twitter.com/q4bybcMpa6— ANC SECRETARY GENERAL | fikile Mbalula (@MbalulaFikile) November 30, 2023
Khaled, 79, is recognised around the world as the first woman to hijack a passenger aeroplane and the face of female Palestine militancy and resistance.
In 1969, she hijacked a passenger jet flying to Tel Aviv from Rome and diverted it to Damascus. There were no injuries.
Other people championing the call include Thuthukile Zuma, the daughter of former president Jacob Zuma, who has been calling for people to sign the petition.
On Thursday, the ANC Greater Johannesburg Region, with members sporting Palestinian keffiyehs, hosted a picket outside the US Consulate, demanding the City of Joburg implement its Council resolution to rename Sandton Drive Leila Khaled Drive'.
“The decision was taken five years ago, and we urge the city to expedite the implementation of this important resolution not only in honour of Leila Khaled but in solidarity with the struggle of the people of Palestine,” said ANC Joburg regional secretary Sasabona Mangaye.
According to a September 2023 report in the SA Jewish Post, Joburg's Transport MMC Kenny Kunene, who is also the deputy president of the Patriotic Alliance, which is pro-Israel, will not allow the renaming to take place.
“I disagree strongly with the renaming of Sandton Drive to Leila Khaled Drive, and the Patriotic Alliance will never vote for it,” Kunene told the publication, adding that local heroes were more deserving.
In December 2018, the ANC, supported by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), tabled a motion in the Johannesburg Council for the renaming of Sandton Drive to Leila Khalid Drive.
At the time, EFF Joburg region chairperson Musa Novela said the city of gold had a responsibility to stand with the people of Palestine and highlight their plight.
“It's our duty to stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine against the oppressive state of Israel.”
The Democratic Alliance (DA), which was running the city with the backing of the EFF and others at the time, shot down the motion, and its Community Development MMC, Nonhlanhla Sifumba, said the motion lacked substance as the name Khaled held no meaning for the people of Joburg.
She said at the time that street names should promote a sense of ownership and the character of the city as per its street-naming policy.
“In this case, this motion fails to meet any of the requirements.”
The motion was reportedly adopted.
In October, Khaled, on her most recent visit to South Africa, delivered the keynote address at the Third International Dilemmas of Humanity Conference, which was hosted by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa in Joburg.
Over 14,500 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel began it's bombardment.
The Palestinian death toll in the Gaza Strip has risen to over 14,500 - including the massacre of 6,000 children and 4,000 women - since the outbreak of the Hamas-Israel conflict on October 7.