Transformation, redress dominate Rhodes debate - study

2015-04-07 18:27
(Schalk van Zuydam, AP)

(Schalk van Zuydam, AP)

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Cape Town - The focus on transformation and redress at the University of Cape Town (UCT) since the beginning of the Rhodes Must Fall debate has seen the university painted in a negative light, according to a media study. 

The study, conducted by Media Tenor SA, analysed a sample of 50 articles published in March which focused on the debate and was done to explore how the issue was framed in the media.

"The two dominant terms which appeared the most frequently in the articles were that of transformation and redress at UCT," Media Tenor SA said.

On transformation, 38% of the articles carried a negative tone towards UCT, 60% of the articles had no tone and only 2% featured a positive tone.

The university also performed poorly on the matter of redress, with 22% of articles carrying a negative tone, 78% carrying no tone and zero percent carrying a positive tone.

"The [Cecil John] Rhodes statue has thus become a major symbol through which debates on the creation of an inclusive student environment are being directed. The most dominant narrative being that the removal of the statue is just one small step towards facilitating transformation at the university," said Media Tenor SA.

Rhodes Must Fall draws country-wide commentary

According to the study, the debate drew commentary from across the country, with a number of different groups and individuals contributing articles or being quoted by the media.

"As a group, students at UCT have generated high volumes of coverage on the statue [on campus]. This makes sense as it has been a student lead movement. Max Price as vice chancellor has had strong volumes of coverage," Media Tenor SA said,

"Interestingly, we have also seen Xolela Mangcu, an associate professor of sociology at UCT, generate coverage through articles he wrote. Julius Malema has been the most prominent politician regarding coverage as his comments on the statue gained media traction."

Journalists lead the way on coverage of the Rhodes Must Fall debate, with around 44% of the coverage.

This was followed by students at around 18%, Price at around 16%, South African society with around 7%, closely followed by Mangcu with around 6%.

South African citizens abroad were the next most vocal on the issue, at around 4%, followed by EFF leader Malema at around 3%.

SA media a major player in setting #RhodesMustFall agenda

The study found that the South African media had been a major player in setting the agenda on the Rhodes Must Fall debate. What had initially begun as a social media trend quickly moved over into mainstream media and saw a variety of different commentators weighing in.

"Since Chumani Maxwele threw sewerage over the statue on March 9 there has been a mass of public engagement. Media Tenor only analysed 50 articles in South African mainstream media, but our monitoring shows that hundreds of pieces have been produced both within local media and across blogging platforms as well," the media research institute said.

Following weeks of protest at UCT, the university's senate voted in favour of removing the statue.

The Rhodes Must Fall debate has since spilled over country-wide, with several statues becoming targets.

Last week, the EFF in the Eastern Cape torched the War Memorial statue in Uitenhage’s Market Square, and again claimed responsibility for vandalising another memorial statue in Port Elizabeth, dismantling the horse memorial. 

Over the weekend, the party's Tshwane chapter defaced the statue of Paul Kruger in Pretoria's Church Square with green paint.

Read more on:    uct  |  eff  |  cecil john rhodes  |  cape town  |  politics  |  monuments debate  |  education

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