Cecil Rhodes se ma ...

2009-09-11 16:42

Path: /Published/CityPress/2009/09/06/CP/Texts/maxrhodes.xml Creator: system Last Modified by: system Print Chanal: CityPress Edition: CP Publication Date: 20090906 Section: Features Folio: Page Ref: 21 Book: Source: MethodeMY two favourite places in Cape Town are Table Mountain and Company Gardens in

the City Bowl. Spectacular, peaceful places with a rich ­variety of


It so happens that both these ­landmarks house monuments to an evil

imperialist from our past – Cecil John Rhodes.

Smack in the middle of the

­gardens is a huge statue of Rhodes with what looks like a camp Nazi ­salute

pointing north and the words “Your hinterland lies there”.

You stroll through

the gardens past the historic St George’s ­Cathedral and walk straight into a

huge new building with the plaque in front stating: Mandela Rhodes Place, with

parts of both men’s ­signatures next to it. (Can you imagine naming a new

building Luthuli/Verwoerd Place? Zuma/Vorster Place? How dare they contaminate

Mandela’s name so? Why did he ­allow it? Money?)

And when you go around the

­mountain near the University of Cape Town you’re confronted with a monumental

structure?– massive pillars, statues of lions and horsemen and all?– in honour

of the same man: the Rhodes Memorial.

The words under the huge bust of Rhodes

at the memorial read like an eulogy to Jesus Christ: “The ­immense and brooding

spirit still shall quicken and control. Living he was the land and dead his soul

shall be her soul.” Whatever.

Cecil John Rhodes was a British imperialist. He

wanted to rule ­Africa under the Union Jack from the Cape to Cairo. He was the

first man to get really, stinking rich out of South Africa’s diamonds and gold.

He was not a democrat. He was not a humanitarian. He did not ­believe black

South Africans should have any political rights in the land of their birth. He

did not treat black workers in his companies’ employ better than any of the

other racist bosses of the time. He even tried to remove the government of the

Transvaal Republic by force through the rag-tag army led by ­Leander Starr


So why exactly should we tolerate this extraordinary hero worship of

this horrible little man? As the ­popular saying in the Cape goes: Cecil se ma

I don’t want to see the Rhodes ­statue cut down and sold as scrap metal. I

don’t want the Rhodes ­Memorial to be bulldozed.

But I would like to see the

Rhodes statue removed from its prominent position in Gardens, Cape Town’s

Central Park, and stored with those of Hendrik Verwoerd and BJ?Vorster and Queen

Victoria and Jan van Riebeeck and others in a museum space where they can be

contextualised in history. That would also be the ideal place for the statue of

Louis Botha on his horse that today takes pride of place in front of Parliament

and Tuynhuys.

Rhodes Memorial can be ­redesigned a public space to honour the

original inhabitants of the Cape, the San and the Khoikhoi.

And while we’re

at it, can we ­examine our obsession with ­changing Boer and Voortrekker names

and places and complete ­tolerance of British imperialist names and places? I’ll

make some suggestions in the following weeks. 

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