Rhodes Must Fall: South Africans must be proud, Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh says as Oxford protests resurface

Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh
Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh
PHOTO: Gallo Images
  • Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh was among those at the forefront of the Rhodes Must Fall campaign at Oxford University more than 5 years ago.
  • The Rhodes Must Fall protests have resurfaced at Oxford University in the wake of George Floyd's killing.
  • Mpofu-Walsh reflects on his time at Oxford and says the protesting at Oxford is the fruit of what activists started during his time.

It's exciting to see protests to have the statue of British colonialist Cecil John Rhodes fall resurface at Oxford University, says South African author, musician, activist and former student at the institution, Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh.

According to Reuters, more than 1 000 protesters gathered at the university on Tuesday to demand that the statue be removed. The demonstrations come hard on the heels of anti-racism protests in the United States and the rest of Europe. 

Just over half a decade ago Mpofu-Walsh was at the forefront of the Rhodes Must Fall campaign at Oxford while he was a doctoral student of philosophy at the university. 

He took up the fight in 2015 as the Rhodes Must Fall campaign got under way at the University of Cape Town, which eventually resulted in the statue's removal.


Speaking to News24 on Wednesday, after the protests resurfaced at Oxford, Mpofu-Walsh said the story was a uniquely South African one in that UCT inspired a generation of students at Oxford to also follow suit and call for the removal of the statue at its premises. 

"This story started in South Africa and all those protests from 2015 in our country are directly linked to what the entire world is now talking about at Oxford.

"I really think it's something that should make South Africans proud, that not only did our protests inspire but also, students from our country went to Oxford and became the first generation to challenge the institutional racism and colonial iconography at that institution," he said.

READ | New UCT vice-chancellor on black pain, #RhodesMustFall and everything in between

Mpofu-Walsh has been watching the latest developments closely and has also been in contact with various activists at Oxford to offer his support and encouragement.

He said he believed that there was a capable generation to carry on with the struggle they started at the institution with activists such as Ntokozo Qwabe.

A crowd protests against racism in Oxford in the UK
A crowd protests against racism in Oxford in the UK in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.


"It's been a period of great excitement, and I [also] think vindication, because we were attacked quite viciously in 2015 and to see it come back in such a powerful way is really wonderful to watch.

READ | UCT's 'racist academic paper' furore: both sides have their say

"There were various South African students at Oxford who contributed to founding this movement and so a lot of young South Africans in that period went to Oxford but did not just rest on getting their education but actually challenged the institution fundamentally, and we see the fruits of that today," he said. 

He added that it was "bizarre" that the university refused to listen to calls to have the statue of Rhodes removed for more than half a decade, adding that the colonial mindset was still entrenched in places such as Oxford. 

"The struggle to change those mindsets is a much harder battle when you are in the minority and so the institution has been around for so long that any fundamental changes need massive and titanic efforts and I am glad to see that on this issue, those efforts have been equal to the demands that have been placed on activists," said Mpofu-Walsh.

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