JOHANNESBURG - An Afrikaner leader who fought the Zulus and a Cape Colony governor who named a coastal settler city after his wife have joined the ranks of dead white South Africans turning in their graves as a result of elections this week.

After final results yesterday confirmed that the African National Congress had won 59 per cent of votes in Tuesday's local elections, the trend towards changing place names in South Africa covers cities, rivers, streets and even dams.

The first to go was Pretoria, the city named after the Boer leader Andries Pretorius, following his defeat of the Zulus at Blood River in 1838. On this week's ballot papers it appeared as Tshwane Metropolitan Council.

And South Africa's fifth city, Port Elizabeth, named in 1820 after the wife of Sir Rufane Donkin, then governor of the British Cape province, is casting off its colonial name to become Nelson Mandela Metropole.

The port will be a more glorious namesake for the popular 82-year-old former president than the Mandela Park squatter camp, near Johannesburg, best known for its violent killings.

Ten years after Mr Mandela's release from prison, the Africanisation of place names is happening painlessly in a country where 77 per cent of the population is black.

One analyst said the result of the council elections showed increased racial polarisation in South Africa, since the 23 per cent of votes obtained by the white-led Democratic Alliance (DA) represented the exact proportion of the country's white, Asian and mixed-race voters.

Outside Cape Town, where the DA won control, the lobby battling for the old names will not be strong.

The rivers Churchill, Vaal and Orange are certain to be renamed, as are Gardiner Smith and West streets, the Durban named after 19th century British naval figures. They will instead honour men who steered South Africa towards majority rule, the black freedom fighters Chris Hani, Oliver Tambo and Mr Mandela.

Reiner Schoeman, an MP for the New National Party – part of the DA – said the Durban name-changes show a "flagrant disregard for both the letter and the spirit of reconciliation". But after the ANC won Durban on Tuesday, Mr Schoeman's objections will not prevail.

There are no objections to some changes. The first street to be renamed after the end of the apartheid era, Showground Road in Johannesburg, did not cause much of a stir when it re-emerged as Enoch Sontonga road, named after the composer of South Africa's national anthem, "Nkosi Sikelele i Afrika", God bless Africa. The black Johannesburg suburb of Sophiatown, bulldozed in the Fifties to become a white area called Triomf – Afrikaans for triumph – got its old name back as soon as the ANC came to power in 1994. But lack of money has meant the old street signs are still in place. Similarly, Kaffircove (nigger cove) was renamed Goukou River, after a Bushman chief.

No one raised a voice to stop the former apartheid prime minister, John Vorster, from losing his claim to Johannesburg central police station, or to what is now Steve Biko Bridge in East London.

The Chelmsford Dam in KwaZulu-Natal was painlessly renamed after General Ntshingwayo, when a councillor pointed out that the nearby battle of Isandlwana had actually been lost by Lord Chelmsford and won by the Zulu military leader.

A new national body, the Geographical Place Naming Council, has been set up to vet suggestions from each of the country's nine provinces.

Surprisingly perhaps, South Africa's biggest and best known city, Johannesburg, has yet to find a new name, in spite of the word's Boer origin. For the moment, it will have to make do with nicknames, Josi and Egoli, which means place of gold, neither of which has yet received official sanction.