Cape Town - An unprecedented step for the country was taken on Wednesday night when it was decided that the statue of colonialist Cecil John Rhodes be removed from its current location at UCT for the sake of transformation.
“This process has been orderly and deliberative, canvassing the views of students, senate, academic and PASS staff, convocation, alumni and the public. It has certainly been enriched by hundreds of articles in the newspapers, discussions on radio and television and on social media. We have noted the extent of the support among all the groupings for removing the statue,” UCT council chairman Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane said after the decision was taken on Wednesday night.
“This process has been vindicated by the number of people who have come into the debates opposed to removing the statue and who have changed their minds as a result of the frank engagement. This is exactly how a university should work and we believe is an example to the country in dealing with heritage issues.
“The university has obtained a permit for temporary removal for safekeeping and we will remove the statue tomorrow (Thursday).”
Wednesday night’s decision was preceded by drama when students stormed the council’s meeting at the university’s research office in Allan Cormack House, bringing proceedings to a halt.
Pandemonium broke out when students demanded to be present when council members voted on removing the statue. The meeting was adjourned after students barged in. Council members were blocked as they tried to leave. Police were called, but did not have to act.
Ndungane told students that council members had been on the verge of voting when the meeting was disrupted.
“This meeting was called for us to make a vote when you came in and we had to stop,” Ndungane told students as he pleaded with them to allow the council to continue its meeting.
Earlier Ndungane, UCT vice chancellor Max Price and UCT registrar Hugh Amoore were seen discussing what to do.
Before the disruption, UCT Student Representative Council (SRC) president Ramabina Mahapa had emerged from the council meeting and told a huge crowd of students outside that Rhodes’s statue would be removed on Thursday.
“The statue is going tomorrow. Council members are busy concluding with discussions on transformation.”
Rhodes Must Fall (RMF) campaign spokeswoman Kealeboga Ramaru said: “We tried to have our voices heard in the past, but management kept on sweeping our issues under the carpet. We won’t leave until the vote is taken.”
Students then decided to leave the building to allow the meeting to proceed. Council members voted unanimously to have the statue removed.
Price had tabled a motion to the university’s senate on March 27 on behalf of the Senior Leadership Group, to remove the Rhodes statue.
The SRC, which is spearheading the RMF campaign, wanted the statue permanently removed.
Speaking to the Cape Times before the meeting, student activist Chumani Maxwele, who initiated RMF – which has become a nationwide campaign to “decolonise” universities – after he flung human excrement on the statue on March 9, said students were confident that council would decide to remove the statue.
“We trust that council will not go against the country.”