Cecil John Rhodes statue must get the heave-ho, say students

2015-03-22 15:00

Students weigh in on the debate over whether the Cecil John Rhodes statue should be removed.

Nomhla Landani (20),

A third-year economics student from Mthatha, believes the student protest against Cecil John Rhodes’ statue was necessary – or nothing would have been done about it.

Students initiated a debate last year, but nothing came of it.

“[Rhodes] took the land. He was one of the pioneers in mining and basically used black people as labourers to work in the mines. Black people were enslaved in the process,” she says.

The statue makes her angry, but the ignorance of many white students about South Africa’s history makes her angrier still.

“The statue makes me recall the pain our forefathers suffered.

“As a black child, we had stories in our families of what our forefathers went through under white rule. The statue invokes the pain and those emotions.”

She says the statue should be moved to a “memorial site”.

Landani says she won’t be taking part in next week’s discussions at the university regarding the statue’s fate because she has to focus on her studies.

Pierre Viviers (19),

A first-year chemical engineering student from Newlands, Cape Town, says he won’t mind if the statue is removed.

“It doesn’t really affect me. If the statue affects a lot of students and they feel offended by it, I don’t really mind if it is removed.

“I just don’t like the approach, which is making it look like racial segregation.”

Viviers says he knows Rhodes was a British colonialist and played a large role in founding the university.

However, he thinks the statue “looks cool”.

“It looks over the city and is centrally placed. It’s like it has a big presence. I just like that part.”

He doesn’t agree with the students’ representative council’s view that the university’s architecture and atmosphere are Eurocentric.

“That’s because it was built by Europeans, but I feel the culture and atmosphere has transformed,” he adds.

Aalia Patel (19),

A first-year speech and language therapy student from Johannesburg, says the statue should be removed because Rhodes was a racist and his presence is offensive.

“No one should have to walk past anything that’s a symbol of hate in a space that is supposed to be a free space.”

The statue is a “threat to justice” and makes her angry each time she passes it, she says.

She agrees with the SRC’s view that the university doesn’t fully accommodate black students because its administration is “very quiet” on issues affecting black students on campus.

Ryan Le Roux (21),

A second-year physics student from Gordon’s Bay, says the statue should be removed but not destroyed as “you can’t delete history”.

But he says the protest action was “stupid”.

“We can all agree on one thing. We aren’t under apartheid any more and protesting in that fashion – throwing faeces at the statue – was disgusting.”

Although the statue doesn’t affect him, seeing how it affected “my black brothers and sisters, I see the statue does honour him instead of portraying what he really was: a racist”.

However, he doesn’t know “how the students have so much time to deal” with the matter.

“That’s why I’ll not really bother to attend the discussion around it next week. I have more university assignments to bother me rather than the statue.”

Talk to us: Do you think statues of people like Cecil John Rhodes have a place in democratic SA?

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