Oxford to remove Rhodes statue

Statue of Rhodes at Oriel College, Oxford

The statue of Cecil John Rhodes is to be removed from Oriel College at Oxford University.

In a statement this week, the Oxford Oriel College’s governing body said it would launch an independent commission of inquiry into issues relating to the statue and recommended it be taken down.

“They also expressed their wish to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes and the King Edward Street Plaque. This is what they intend to convey to the independent commission of inquiry.

“Both of these decisions were reached after a thoughtful period of debate and reflection and with the full awareness of the impact these decisions are likely to have in Britain and around the world.

“The commission will deal with the issue of the Rhodes legacy and how to improve access and attendance of BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) undergraduate, graduate students and faculty, together with a review of how the college’s 21st century commitment to diversity can sit more easily with its past.”

The commission is expected to be chaired by Carole Souter, the current head of St Cross College and former chief executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund. A report for the governing body will be produced by the end of the year, the statement read.

Oriel had said in 2016 that it would keep its own statue as “an important reminder of the complexity of history”.

The decision to remove the statue also comes in light of the #BlackLivesMatter global wave of anti-racism protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and a number of colonial and confederate statues being taken down.

On June 9, large demonstrations were held outside Oriel College college.

South African graduate student at Oxford and RhodesMustFall campaigner Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh said that this was a moment for celebration.

However, pressure must still be exerted on Oriel to see its wish to fruition.

In a statement yesterday, the Oxford RhodesMustFall campaign said the group was “optimistic” following the decision but urged the college to commit to removing the statue.

“We have been down this route before, where Oriel College has committed to taking a certain action, but has not followed through.

“While the governing body of Oriel College has ‘expressed their wish’ to take down the statue, we continue to demand their commitment,” they said.

The UCT RhodesMustFall movement and the Black People’s National Crisis Committee said in a statement: “Our inability to breathe is precipitated not only by the physical violence of the white knee on our necks, but also the psychological violence imposed on us by the presence of colonial symbols such as the statues of genocidal and colonialists par excellence such as Cecil John Rhodes that occupy public spaces in South Africa and metropolitan cities across the globalising world.”

They said racism was endemic and institutionalised to dehumanise black people as a race wherever they found themselves.

“The clarion call by the Oxford RhodesMustFall to have the statue of Rhodes removed is long overdue.” – BBC & Cape Times