Replace Rhodes with Kgosana

2015-04-13 14:00

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As the statue of the colonialist falls, UCT should replace it with one of 1960s student activist Philip Kgosana, writes MK Malefane

On March 30 1960 – 55 years ago – a young University of Cape Town (UCT) student led a 30?000-strong march from Langa township to Cape Town’s city centre to protest against apartheid oppression after the Sharpeville massacre and the Langa shootings a few days before.

Although tricked into persuading the crowd to disperse peacefully – and then being arrested – this young man’s valiant act averted what would have been an unprecedented confrontation between armed white police and army forces, and an unarmed black mass in the city.

That person was Philip Kgosana, a student activist from UCT.

In his book The Cape Times – An Informal History, which was published in 1999, Gerald Shaw writes: “For a few hours, the fate of Cape Town and the course of South African history was in the hands of two men, a colonel of the South African Police and a student in short pants.”

It would be fitting for the city to rename the road he marched on from De Waal Drive to Philip Kgosana Drive.

Former UCT student Philip Kgosana was referred to as the ‘man in shorts’ when he led the biggest student march from Langa to Cape Town. Kgosana marched with 30?000 students in a protest against oppression.

As the controversial statue of Cecil John Rhodes comes down from its pedestal at the university, it would also be appropriate that one of Philip Kgosana be ready to take its place.

Arguments by black intellectuals in favour of the retention of white colonial and oppressor statues, at least for now, need to be supported. They serve as symbols of the past, as UCT and the remaining vestiges of white privilege and racism tackle transformation and future development challenges.

I had breakfast last month with a colleague and (black) university students. We were reflecting on Rhodes and the other statues on university campuses.

We were also remembering Human Rights Month and the March 21 1960 Sharpeville massacre – which happened nine days before I turned two years old.

It turned out that these “university” students didn’t know who Rhodes was, nor did they know about King George V or Robert Sobukwe. They had no idea what the group areas and immorality acts were. Welcome to the lost generation – ignorant, unemployed and poor, a ticking time bomb waiting to explode.

After the last national social cohesion summit, nothing short of national collective responsibility, atonement and a renewal summit led by our intellectuals is needed to provide a platform and turnaround solution for national salvation.

We must host the long-overdue Pan-African (continental and diaspora) reunion festival of arts and culture to promote the agenda of transformation and Africa’s future, especially on economic development.

Malefane is a lobby, investment and development consultant, and is the promoter of the UN International Decade for People of African Descent - Executive Club

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