9 votes to 15. That’s how the Rhodes council voted to keep varsity’s name

Student from Rhodes University protest against colonialism. Picture: Black Student Movement
Student from Rhodes University protest against colonialism. Picture: Black Student Movement

It was a difficult decision. But Rhodes University council has decided to not change its name.

Following calls from students last year over colonialism and the connotations attached to retaining the name of British imperialist Cecil John Rhodes, the university’s council held a vote by secret ballot last week.

University spokesperson Veliswa Mhlope confirmed that a motion was tabled for the change of the name of Rhodes University.

“Out of 24 members of council who were present and eligible to cast a ballot on this motion, nine members voted for the motion and 15 voted against the motion to change the name of Rhodes University,” Mhlope said.

“The issue of the name change was taken very seriously by council. It set in motion processes that would facilitate its speedy resolution. Given the university’s precarious financial position and the need for the university to prioritise transformation and be responsive to the challenges facing our society while maintaining its enviable academic credentials, the university cannot embark on a process of changing its name that will divert the limited resources it has. This has been a difficult decision to make and, regardless of the results of the ballot, there are no winners from this process. While democratic decision-making is, and must always be, respected as a cornerstone upon which we build the university, council accepts that further actions must and will be taken to ensure that appropriate recognition is given to the hurt generated by the legacy of Cecil John Rhodes.”

The council stated that the university “has been, and remains, committed to the redress of the wrongs of the past and to build an even stronger institution that every African, including all the residents of Makana local municipality can be proud of”.

Announcements will be made regarding actions to be taken to ensure that, while acknowledging South Africa’s historical contradictions and the pain caused, the university continues to deepen the decolonisation and advancement of the institution.

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