Anger over 'anti-Rhodes activist' chosen for Rhodes scholarship

2017-01-23 23:15
Anti Rhodes activists (File)

Anti Rhodes activists (File)

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Cape Town – Surprise and anger were among the reactions on Monday to a former UCT law student accepting a Rhodes scholarship; and to a report crediting him as a central figure in the Rhodes Must Fall (RMF) movement.

Joshua Nott, 23, was part of the 96-strong international class selected to pursue postgraduate studies at Oxford University this year.

He joined eight other South Africans, including Mbalenhle Matandela, whose honours thesis focused on black women’s experiences in the RMF.

The annual Rhodes Scholarship, said to be valued at almost 40 000 British Pounds (around R670 000) is funded by the estate of British colonialist and mining magnate Cecil John Rhodes.

In reporting Nott’s selection, the Daily Mail described him as an “Anti-Rhodes activist” who was “the key publicist” and “an organizer” of the student-led RMF movement in 2015.

It included a photo of Nott, with tape over his mouth, holding up a board with details of a Rhodes Statue meeting.

In March 2015, Nott attended a students’ dialogue on the removal of the Rhodes statue from UCT. 

He was quoted by the Cape Argus as saying: “You wouldn’t see a swastika in Jerusalem”.

Some social media users accused him of having double standards for accepting the scholarship.

Those who had studied at UCT voiced their surprise, confusion, rage, and even amusement online, saying Nott was never a member of RMF. One user accused Nott on Facebook of having actually “sabotaged” the RMF movement’s efforts. 

A former student and member of RMF and Decolonise UCT Law, who asked not to be named, told News24 on Monday night that Nott was definitely never part of the movement.

“He joined the protest immediately in 2015 and was kicked out,” she said.

“He made quite inflammatory comments. His position deviated from the politics of RMF.”

She said the scholarship was not a surprise; rather it was “expected of him” in the context of privilege and opportunism.

The Rhodes House website describes Nott as a young South African, “dedicated to South Africa’s Constitutional imperatives”. It makes no mention of his involvement with the RMF movement.

Instead, it says he is “keenly interested in social justice and has pioneered a number of workers’ rights and student focused initiatives.”

His online CV states his former positions at the South African Students’ Congress and the Black Law Students’ Forum.

Read more on:    cape town  |  university protests

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