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Cecil John Rhodes was a mass Imperialist

Opinion | Guest Contributor | 2015.03.30 | 9 Jumadal Ukhra 1436 H


Image Credit – Defaced King George V statue in Durban covered in paint with signs hanging from it calling for an end to white privilege.

A statue of Cecil John Rhodes in Africa is like a monument or statue of Hitler being erected in Germany, opines Saajida Malvina.


On Thursday last week a statue of King George V was defaced at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Howard College campus in Durban. The defacement came on the heels of protests at the University of Cape Town who are demanding a statue of Cecil John Rhodes be removed from the university’s upper complex because it honours a mass imperialist.  Oxford University Vice Chancellor Andrew Hamilton has echoed his support and agrees the statue is a symbol of racism. University of Cape Town’s Vice Chancellor echoed similar sentiments, but added the statue should be removed, but not destroyed – as it is part of the country’s history.


26 March 2015, marked 113 years since Cecil John Rhodes death. This withstanding, his name is still embroiled in debate.  Social media is trending with the hashtag #RhodesMustFall, and a Facebook page created under this name has more than 7000 likes. An online petition demanding the statue be removed had more than a 1000 signups in under a day.


The protest has gained momentum with ZANU PF supporters calling for Rhodes’s body to be exhumed and his remains returned to Britain where it “will be better appreciated.”


Why the debacle over a statue of a man dead more than 100 years ago?


Cecil John Rhodes, a Briton who lived in South Africa created the state of Rhodesia and plundered and usurped Africa of its wealth.  He monopolised the world’s diamond supply in 1890 through a strategic partnership with London-based diamond syndicate to control the world’s supply and maintain high prices.


Rhodes has a history of suppressing free speech; redistributing land along racial lines; employing armed and sometimes mobs to kill opponents.  Zimbabwe’s President, President Robert Mugabe didn’t initiate land grabs – rather it can be traced up to 1887. Rhodes told the House of Assembly in Cape Town that “the native is to be treated as a child.” He also was the father of separation as he said; “we must adopt a system of despotism in our relations with the barbarians of South Africa”.  He envisioned a world in which British settlers would occupy the world.  He believed the Anglo-Saxon race was superior and they should rule the world.



Rhodes connived his way to wealth in a lawless frontier culture and used his fortune for a private invasion in East Africa.  He bought newspapers to shape and control public opinion.  His crimes go on, including brokering secret deals, using gangs and mercenaries to butcher his opponents, and seizing close to a million square meters of territory from it’s inhabitants.


Seeing Rhodes notorious behaviour, university students in South Africa are understandably demanding the monument or statue of Rhodes be removed from UCT where it stands in honour at its upper campus.  A statue or a monument is erected to commemorate a noteworthy person, of whom Rhodes certainly doesn’t represent.  His crimes can never be forgotten as we are still reeling from the past.


We don’t want to forget or erase our colonial past, thus the best solution would be for his statue to be taken to the Apartheid Museum or any museum, so his vile acts can be remembered. His statue should definitely not be on display at our prestigious universities as his actions are not to be commemorated.  A statue of Cecil John Rhodes in Africa is like a monument or statue of Hitler being erected in Germany.  We all know Hitler’s history and his statue need not be erected as a fatal memory, otherwise history would be forgotten?


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