A court decided not to change the capital's name on street signs from Pretoria to Tshwane because it may strain the split between black and white South Africans.
The ruling by the Pretoria High Court was in response to a challenge from the Freedom Front Plus party and the civil rights group Afriforum. The two groups argued the local council had no right to replace signs pending the outcome of a broader court challenge against the city's name change, which Afrikaner speakers argue tramples on their cultural rights.
Established by white settlers in 1855, the city was named after Andries Pretorius, a leader of the Afrikaners' "Great Trek" into the interior of the country. But for many blacks, Pretoria symbolized decades of white racist rule.
The city council voted two years ago to leave only the city center as Pretoria and call the rest of the capital Tshwane, derived from the Ndebele name used by some of the region's earliest African inhabitants and meaning "we are the same."
Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder said the judgment was "a victory for everyone in South Africa to whom cultural goods and the supremacy of the law is important."
However, the council noted that the decision did not affect the capital's name change and said it did not have "much political significance."
"The court did not rule on the question of the city's name. It only ruled on the technical matter of whether the current signposts may be removed and replaced with the Tshwane name posts," the city said.
It said the ruling did not prohibit the city from putting up Tshwane signs at a later stage.
The Pretoria-Tshwane debate has proved the most controversial of a renaming process sweeping towns and cities throughout the country as it tries to honor leaders of the anti-apartheid struggle and embrace the nation's African roots.
O.R. Tambo International Airport last year replaced Johannesburg airport in honor of the late African National Congress leader. Many municipalities, bridges, community centers and highways are also now named after heroes like Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu.
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