The Rhodes debate

2015-05-05 06:00

I have visited the Rhodes memorial on several occasions and have taken many of my guests to view the beauty of Cape Town in all it splendour on warm windless days.

The views were always breathtaking. I never for once bothered about the history of Cecil John Rhodes until the recent protest by the students of UCT over his statue.

What was very worrying, was the racially divisive nature of the protests and the extremely acerbic tone of the debates. I was prompted to research the man’s history to make sense of this divisive debate.

I came across an excellent article written by Mzubisi Qobo, the past president of the student representative council in 1996. The article appeared in Business Day on Friday 20 March.

According to Qobo, Cecil J Rhodes was infamously known for his “Every Master Wallop-his Nigger Bill”, which gave white farmers the right to flog their black workers.

He strongly opposed the idea of giving blacks the right to “own land” in their own country. He felt that they should be kept in sub-human conditions in native reserves.

Qobo further states that Rhodes’ purported generosity to donate land for UCT and his residence for future prime ministers was done so with plundered money and to bribe the future not to judge him harshly for his ugly past.

I am sure many beneficiaries of the Rhodes scholarship back in the early ’50s and ’60s, who are his staunch supporters and responsible for all the vitriol in the media against the protesters, were totally ignorant of the fact that Rhodes was an absolute racist.

With the Rhodes ugly racist background, there should be no doubt that his statue has absolutely no place in a reputable university like the UCT of today. Like Hitler’s and other dictators’ statues, Rhodes’ statue should be kept in a museum to remind civilised people that the evil of one’s past will always be remembered by history.

Rhodes’ statue occupies a space that could and should be occupied by a statue of a person that could make the university, its students and fellow Capetonians extremely proud of.

That person is Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, a world renowned figure, who so fearlessly devoted so much of his life for the liberation of this country from the terrible shackles of apartheid. This man is hugely responsible for prevailing upon black South Africans to renounce violence and forgive their oppressor to build a rainbow nation.

It was so heartening to hear Afrikaans speakers in Ventersdorp welcoming the idea of reburying the remains of the late JB Marks, the struggle leader, who died in Moscow in 1972, in Ventersdorp to bring about racial harmony in a town that was torn apart by the Terreblanche.

If the residents of Ventersdorp can do it, then it shouldn’t be too hard for the liberal-minded Capetonians of all races to unite and replace the bad with the good.

In a free and democratic country such as ours, centres of learning should have statues and monuments of people that can inspire their pupils to be good citizens and not have statues of racists like Rhodes, who treated black people with absolute disdain.

UCT vice-chancellor Max Price will be remembered well by history for taking the correct decision to remove this hurtful reminder of our sad past

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.