The collapse of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes should not have come as a surprise. The writing was on the wall all along but counter-revolutionary forces ignored the signs. Today we celebrate the removal of the statue of the British imperialist which coincides with the 22nd anniversary of the assassination of the late General Secretary of the South African Communist Party. The fall of Rhodes statue is indeed a befitting tribute to the memory of comrade Chris Hani. Indeed we celebrate the great achievements and magnanimous struggles of the students at UCT.
The actions of the brave students of UCT have shown that the young people are highly conscious of the fact that when we defeated Apartheid on 27 April 1994, we assumed control at all levels of society in general. Universities belong to us. We will decide what we do with them. There must not be confusion there because when we say that these universities belong to us we mean it.
I am saying this because there is a small section in our society which is still confused. There are those who have already asked: “Why don’t you build your own universities and erect the statues of your own heroes?”
This question is rather problematic and ill-informed, and it requires clarity without delay or fear of contradictions or retribution. When we took over the country in 1994, we included all public institutions such as universities, colleges, hospitals, government buildings such as union buildings, roads etc. It is a dangerous and ill-informed assertion to suggest that we should build our own universities or build our own roads. Cecil John Rhodes like his predecessors represents nothing but British colonial imperialism. Their obligatory mandated mission was to colonize our land, dispossess us of our land and economic wealth, and enslave us to British chains of hegemony and supremacy. We cannot therefore after defeating and aborting their obnoxious system continue to allow them to dominate our public space and hover above us in the form of celebrated statue. What are we after all celebrating in their presence? Is it a form of acknowledgement of their atrocities? It is in fact myopic to suggest that Rhodes donated land to build UCT. By so saying we condone offers of stolen goods. He donated stolen land in charity form.
The same can be said about Paul Kruger against that section of society that claims he was anti-colonialism. Paul Kruger never fought for African liberation but for Afrikaner independence and sovereignty on foreign land. So to me Cecil John Rhodes and Paul Kruger represent two thugs who fought over stolen goods. One wanted to deliver the loot to the master (Queen Elizabeth) and another
one wanted the loot for himself and his cronies. Who is better if I may ask? The controversy around Paul Kruger’s stolen diamond and gold is an example to strengthen my argument. He refused to deliver the stolen minerals to the British but either way never delivered it to their rightful owners (Africans). He chose to be a renegade fugitive who hid the minerals somewhere between Lydenburg (Mashishing) and Barberton in Mpumalanga. To date those minerals are still mysteries to us yet he escaped through Maputo and lived in Switzerland if I am not mistaken. In fact the country should be chanting “Paul Kruger, bring back our gold” instead of celebrating him. We therefore cannot allow some ill-informed members of our society to tell us that we should build our own universities, towns and factories. That is pure indoctrinated sympathy and a displayed inferiority complex of the highest form
As we celebrate the fall of Rhodes statue, we should also bear in mind that the struggle to emancipate UCT from the clutches of colonialism is not over. We still have a burning matter of the admission policy which is designed to exclude the vast majority of African students but also the issue of fewer black academics at UCT.
Hendrick Makaneta is the National Spokesperson of the Higher Education Transformation Network and he writes in his personal capacity.
For more info contact:
082 623 2148 or firstname.lastname@example.org