Statue anger reveals gross double standards

2015-04-06 06:00

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Under a cloud of black smoke, a British wagon creaked towards the nearest camp. Behind it roared the sound of flames engulfing a farmhouse and kraal.

More than 110 years have passed since that morning in 1901.

Burning down his farm seemed a fitting punishment for Christiaan Ernst Roets, a Free State farmer who was defending his people by taking up arms against the British empire.

On the wagon was Roets’ wife, Kotie, accompanied by her two children. The youngest was about three years old. His name was Sarel Arnoldus Roets, my great-grandfather.

Kotie devised a plan to escape the British soldiers and survive. She reminded her children of a cave near the banks of the Vaal River.

The plan was to jump from the wagon at her signal as soon as the guards were not watching. They were to run as fast as they could in opposite directions and meet at the cave at dusk. Miraculously, her plan worked.

Others were not so lucky. More than 34?000 women and children died in British concentration camps over the next two years.

This scorched earth policy by Lord Kitchener was a result of the British expansionism propagated by Cecil John Rhodes.

I have never seen Rhodes’ statue at the University of Cape Town (UCT) because I have never felt the urge to. I never knew Rhodes donated his fortune to establishing UCT, now recognised as one of the best universities in the world.

But despite this, I knew better than to rejoice when a student threw human excrement at the statue and the campaign to have it removed gathered steam.

I am convinced the tears that have allegedly been shed as a result of the “pain” this statue is causing are a disingenuous attempt to hide a racist agenda that results from the double standards in post-1994 South Africa.

Voortrekker Monument, Pretoria, Gauteng. Picture: Hoberman Collection / Getty Images

I believe this because I gather from news reports that campaigns for the statue’s removal have been inundated with racial slogans and antiwhite sentiment.

I believe the student activists are attempting to commit a deed of cultural plagiarism. It is disingenuous to call for the removal of Rhodes’ statue because you have a problem with his legacy, while continuing to reap the fruits of his legacy by studying at the university he built.

If those activists were truly angry about Rhodes’ legacy, they should never have enrolled at UCT or should have called for the destruction of the entire university, not just the statue.

I believe this because none of those activists or those who support their cause have tried to criticise the renaming of streets, stadiums and towns after black leaders whose atrocities were equal to those committed by the likes of Rhodes.

Take the renaming of Amanzimtoti’s main street from Kingsway to Andrew Zondo Street. On December 23 1985, this ANC operative planted a bomb in the street’s Sanlam shopping centre. Three women and two children were killed and 40 people injured.

He is now venerated as an ANC hero, while the families of some of his murdered victims still live in Amanzimtoti. He has been honoured by having the street renamed after him.

Another example is Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane, built for the 2010 soccer World Cup. Mokaba was an angry, antiwhite activist who campaigned that HIV and Aids did not exist and for his repeated chanting of a so-called ANC struggle song, Kill the Boer, Kill the Farmer. The song has since been declared hate speech.

None of the commentators who say the statue has to be removed dare to agree that the same standards should apply to Zondo or Mokaba. This is racism in disguise.

At a recent government summit on name changes, I asked about the meanings of “cause of pain” and “offensiveness” – attributed to symbols and place names. I was told pain was subjective. It would always be up to the majority to decide what pain was and the minority had to accept it. This comes from an ANC that has argued the word ‘majority’ means black and ‘minority’ is code for whites.

This is why, despite my strong personal opinions about Rhodes, I believe the debate around his statue is not constructive, because it occurs in a milieu of gross double standards, disingenuous “pain” and anger that is misdirected.

Roets is deputy CEO of AfriForum

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