Tutu foundation proposes Graça Machel statue at UCT

2015-03-27 22:31
Students walk past a statue of British colonialist Cecil John Rhodes at the University of Cape Town near the city center of Cape Town, South Africa on 7 March 2015. (Schalk van Zuydam, AP)

Students walk past a statue of British colonialist Cecil John Rhodes at the University of Cape Town near the city center of Cape Town, South Africa on 7 March 2015. (Schalk van Zuydam, AP)

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Cape Town - A proposal to put up a statue of Graça Machel at University of Cape Town (UCT) was raised by Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, in the midst of the ongoing protest against the presence of a statue of Cecil John Rhodes at the Cape Town campus.

“Why are UCT students not discussing the installation of a statue of Mrs Graça Machel on their campus?” said Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu, executive director of the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, in a statement released on Friday.

Calls for the Rhodes statue to be destroyed emerged three weeks ago after a UCT student threw human excrement on it. Students claim the statue represented what Rhodes stood for: racism and white supremacy.

Student activists have also upped the ante by occupying the Bremner Building, the university’s administration block on UCT’s middle campus, with their demands of a date for the removal of the statue not having been met yet.

Tutu said: “UCT has as its chancellor one of the finest women on our planet. A former teacher, revolutionary, cabinet minister and the former first lady of two countries. She is an advocate for children, a member of The Elders and a global activist.”

Machel, who was elected into office in September 1999, is currently serving as the fifth chancellor at UCT.

The foundation also wrote that the students maintain the right to question the glorification of a contested historical figure, but not the right to destroy history, to threaten violence or to throw excrement in public, or to exclude people from participating in the debate on the basis of skin colour.

Despite what people may think of Rhodes, he nonetheless, had a profound impact on the country for "good and for ill" and that his impact cannot be erased, the foundation said.

“Destroying statues erases history. It obliterates a part of our common story. We do not want to erase history. We do not want to forget what happened to us. Our past has made us who we are.”

Tutu urged that the debate should be continued without resorting to intimidation, violence or racism.

UCT's Vice Chancellor Max Price and various leadership groups had expressed their support for the removal of the statue earlier this week. The final decision will require a vote by a special sitting of the university council, set to take place in April.

Read more on:    uct  |  graca machel  |  cecil john rhodes  |  cape town  |  education  |  monuments debate

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