OPINION: Rhodes must fall: Revolution or an act of weakness?

The #RhodesMustFall campaign has resulted in a decision by the Senate of the University of Cape Town (UCT) to move the statue of Cecil John Rhodes.

For the past few weeks the national news has been up in a storm with the Rhodes saga. It all started at the University of Cape Town (UCT) where students threw human excrement at a statue of Cecil John Rhodes. The outrage then spread to Rhodes University where students demanded that the name of the institution be changed. Most recently, students from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal (UKZN) have defaced the King George V statue, splashing it with paint.
Students have justified these undignified acts by calling the statues “symbols of colonialism and white supremacy”.

With over 20 years of democracy, black people are still suffering from the mental repercussions of apartheid, or what I refer to as a ‘victim mentality’. If the black population was fully emancipated, it would not be resorting to such undignified measures (throwing faeces) in order to be heard.

If the black population was fully emancipated, it would not be resorting to such undignified measures (throwing faeces) in order to be heard.

University of Free State (UFS) Rector Jonathan Jansen posed a significant article in his analysis of the movements: “Who cleans up the mess once the media cameras are turned off and the triumphal students return to their air-freshened accommodation on or off campus? It is black workers, perhaps even the parents of students. None of this humiliation matters to the students. They made their point and got their airtime. Who cares about the cleaners?”

“A sense of weakness and lack of education”

Personally, I do not think that the removal of the statue will change anything; it will not even change the history. The very act of removing the statue will only display a sense of weakness and lack of education. Instead of focusing on the negatives of Rhodes, why don’t we acknowledge the high value he put on education? Rhodes University was named after him, after the Rhodes Trust donated 50,000 British pounds in De Beers shares to build the institution in 1904. While Rhodes may be a symbol of white supremacy, he also embodies the value of education and civilization. I believe his statue was erected there for the education values he had. Removing the statue will not only be a futile attempt at resolving the race issue in South Africa, but it will also fuel it.

Mugabe on Rhodes

The changing of the name of the Rhodes University might also be problematic because already there is no unanimity with whose name it should be changed to. The changing of names is also an expensive procedure. Instead of thousands of rands being spent on name-changing, perhaps more money could be invested in transformation campaigns. Perhaps we could learn a thing or two from the president of our neighboring country, Zimbabwe. Over the years, people have threatened to dig up the body of Cecil Rhodes who is buried in that country. But Robert Mugabe has argued that Rhodes’ legacy was a significant part of history.

Does the end justify the means?

With all these movements going on, I ask myself, is this a much-awaited revolution on the race issues that are still faced in this country? Will the removal of the statue bring about ‘change’ or ‘transformation’ as they call it? Will this be a case of ‘the end justifies the means’?

Before one starts a riot, a hashtag, before one throws faeces at a statue, one must ask themselves the following questions: Do you know enough history of that person? Do you understand why the person’s statue was erected there? And most importantly, are you aware of the positive contributions of that person to the institution?

Steve Biko once said in a speech: “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”

Until we emancipate ourselves from mental slavery, colonial symbols will forever threaten our existence and freedom.

Elections poser for Zimbabwe students

 

A CHOICE TO MAKE: Zimababweans go to the polls on Wednesday Photo: Mfuneko Toyana

A CHOICE TO MAKE: Zimababweans go to the polls on Wednesday         Photo: Mfuneko Toyana

A LARGE number of Zimbabwe-born Witsies will not be able to cast their votes in what is supposed to be a watershed election for the country next Wednesday.

The July 31 ballot takes place only two weeks into the current university term. Many Witsies say they cannot, financially and academically, afford to travel back to their home towns and exercise their right to vote.

Zimbabwean citizens living and working in South Africa will not be able to cast their votes at the Zimbabwean embassy either, as many had hoped.

This comes after Zimbabwean Electoral Commission failed to put in place organisational measures necessary to allow Zimbabweans living South Africa to vote.

Logistics, however, are not the only reason Witsies born in Zimbabwe said they would not be voting.

 

Witsies Speak

Third-year BA Law, Politics and International Relations student Tapiwa Gozhore said he hadn’t registered to vote because he did not see a reason to vote.

“I believe there is no choice in the Zimbabwe elections,” Gozhore said.

A Bulawayo-born student, who did not want to give her name, said she was a registered voter but would not be crossing the border to cast her vote.

“In the last one [elections] even though I voted the results were already there, so I think it is a waste of time and money when there’s already a winner,” she said.

 

In Previous Times

Last month, President Robert Mugabe proclaimed the July 31 election date, citing Zimbabwe’s constitution requirement to push for elections within 30 days.

Opposition parties, mainly the Movement for Democratic Change led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC-T), as well as the Southern African Development Community, pleaded for a 14 day extension to prepare for the vote, but this was rejected by Mugabe’s ZANU-PF.

Tsvangirai told the New African magazine: “President Robert Mugabe has proceeded to pass unlawful decree enacting on his own amendments to the Electoral Act.”

Bulawayo-born Langa Moyo, Masters Engineering, told Wits Vvuvzela that he had also not registered to vote.

“The time frame wasn’t good enough for me. It [registration] was a rushed thing. You know the opposition and everyone was trying to extend the dates, and the ZANU-PF guys were trying to make sure elections come as early as possible. Everyone was confused about whether to go to Zim now, or should I go later to register.”

Witsie Cassian Mavhaire said he had no plans of returning to Zimababwe because there were no opportunities for graduates in the country.

Mavhaire said Mugabe was the bad guy and MDC-T were the good guys.

“The best situation is for the unity government to be in place rather than for us to have a one-party government,” he said.

Democracy?

Gozhore said he did not see a reason for elections at all in Zimbabwe. He said people were supporting opposition parties only because they despised ZANU-PF.

“For me that’s not a democratic country…People should vote based on choice, so that I vote for MDC because I don’t like ZANU-PF, but I vote for MDC because they have policies that will develop our country for the next 30 years.”