Cecil John Rhodes’ days are numbered

After a week of student protest, UCT vice-chancellor Max Price has given up on the statue of colonial war criminal and génocidaire Cecil John Rhodes. Price says it should be moved from its “pride of place, at the focal point of the campus”.

In an attempt to stop the protests, Price yesterday announced a fast-track plan for the controversial statue, hated by both black and white.

But Price’s appeasement gesture will do little to quell the spread of black protests against lack of “transformation” and “racial equality”. SRC president Ramabina Mahapa described the new plan as “meaningless”.

Using the hashtag #Rhodes SoWhite, students in Grahamstown yesterday staged a demonstration too about the slow pace of transformation and lack of inclusiveness at Rhodes University.

The chairman of the Higher Education Transformation Network, Lucky Thekisho, singled out the North West and Stellenbosch universities as white scourges.

The three different campuses of North West University needed to be unified so that resources could be more equally spread, while student initiations were a racially divisive issue at Stellenbosch, he said.

UCT students began protesting 10 days ago after a political science student, Chumani Maxwele emtied a bucket of faeces over the statue of Rhodes.

Maxwele has told The Times he wants to end the division between black and white students at UCT and to eradicate whiteness which is still rampant at the institution.

Price defended Rhodes and said “This will not compromise our ability to record and debate the role Rhodes played in the city’s and continent’s history.”

Nine former presidents of the UCT SRC have written an open letter to the university council expressing their support for the removal of the statue.

Heritage Western Cape spokesman Andew Hall said the statue was an “icon of national heritage”. The provincial government has appealed to “stakeholders from the heritage committee” and “laws” in an effort to stop the removal.

The province has never sought input from any so-called stakeholders when it summarily trashed and removed Afrikaner monuments in Cape Town.

“It cannot just be broken down. The university will have to get a permit before making any changes to it and they will have to recommend what needs to happen with the statue. Without appeals, the process could take 30 days,” Hall declared.

The DA’s coloured federal chairman Wilmot James, a former dean of humanities at UCT, confirmed that Rhodes was a war criminal. “Cecil John Rhodes did awful things as part of his colonial project,” he said. Wilmot nevertheless tried to defend Rhodes’ “contribution to education”.

Rhodes started the British war effort, supported by troops from several regions in the British Empire, including blacks, the Australian colonies, Canada, India and New Zealand, to plunder the rich Boer republics where gold had just been discovered in the nineteenth century.

For this purpose concentration camps for white Afrikaners were set up in which almost 30 000 Afrikaner women and children perished. Black British troops were ordered to rape white Afrikaner women and girls.

It formed part of the British “Scorched Earth” policy which included the systematic destruction of crops and slaughtering of livestock, the burning down of churches, homesteads and farms, and the poisoning of wells and salting of fields.