Rhodes was a principal pioneer of the oppressive systems that entrenched racial capitalism in southern Africa long before 1948. Poll taxes, influx control and colonial land tenure policies destroyed black economies and forced black men into cheap migrant labour on the mines and on farms stolen by white settlers.
Rhodes' legacy has been the reduction of black lives to units of cheap labour; this is the deepest root of South Africa's continuing education crisis. Under-resourced, overcrowded and under-performing schools are expressions of this crisis. University campuses dominated by white academics, neo-liberal curricula and symbols of racial oppression are expressions of this crisis. The connections between poor schooling and untransformed campuses are clear.
The Rhodes statue is undeniably offensive. Black students, workers and academics have clearly articulated the pain it causes them, in the context of an environment experienced as hostile rather than welcoming. That pain does not require validation. It demands introspection and action from the whole UCT community.
We call on both the UCT Council and the heritage authorities to recognise and publicly affirm the urgent importance of removing the Rhodes statue, without delay, for the reasons outlined above, and in order to open the path to the wider tasks of racial, political, economic and intellectual transformation; on the campuses, and in the classrooms of rural and township youth, where intellectual dispossession begins.
Similarly, we echo the demand to change the name of Rhodes University.
Victory for the students at UCT and Rhodes will represent a victory for those fighting inequality and racism everywhere. We urge them to continue their struggle and we wish them strength in doing so.
For comment contact:
Nombulelo Nyathela (EE spokesperson)
060 503 4933