So…Cecil John Rhodes…The name on the lips of almost every South African. The man whose image I never would’ve thought to defend. Yet, here I am. But not for his sake, but ours.
We live in a country so rich in tormented history. This whole campaign for removal of his statue at UCT main campus is – in my opinion – quite daft. Yes the man was a rogue…an imperialist…a colonialist…a bigot…but he was also an explorer, a go-getter, an entrepeneur, a capitalist, a forward thinker. For all that he took he also gave….and is still giving (post-mortem). Although originally setup for the further education of British, South Africans, Americans, New Zealanders, Australians, Canadians and Germans his scholarship reaches across so many ethnicities today.
“I could never accept the position that we should disqualify a human being on account of his colour.” (1)
So why remove his statue? I believe all national monuments should remain as they are. Street names as well. They are apart of our rich (albeit troubled) history. They are reminders of what not to do. The negatives of our past gave us so much to turn to positive. We cannot just have reminders of the good. We have to take the good with the bad.
A precedent has been set with the removal of the Rhodes statue. I hope those who were protesting for the removal of that statue are not aiming to be recipients of the Rhodes Trust Scholarship. That’s like biting the hand that feeds you. Surely one cannot protest against the image but accept the fruit? Now there are calls for the removal of the Paul Kruger Monument and the Louis Botha statue has been defaced. These people existed. When does it stop?
Why do we insist on carrying the history of our nation as a yoke instead of accepting it for what it is and taking what we can from it to propel ourselves upward and forward? Why do we insist on erasing history by renaming streets when we have so many new developments shooting up where new streets are created. Name those streets for struggle heroes. It’s more apt anyway. New area, new era. Why do we insist on wasting money for politicking when we have so many who are homeless and starving. I can think of a few ways to put that money to better use. Why are allowing the “race whisperers” to get the upper hand? I am so tired of the race card. I am a woman of colour. I refuse to use the race card. Merit or bust.
History cannot be erased. The German philosopher, Karl Marx, was quoted as saying,
Looking at where we’re at I’d say it’s true.
- Davidson, Apollon Borisovich; Translated from the Russian by Christopher English (2003).Cecil Rhodes and his Time p. 255.
- The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852), in Marx Engels Selected Works, volume I, p. 398.