Cape Town - Rhodes has fallen.
The statue of British colonialist Cecil John Rhodes which has been overlooking UCT ‘s rugby fields for more than 80 years is no longer there.
Scenes of jubilation erupted at UCT’s upper campus on Thursday as hundreds of people gathered to watch the statue being removed from the university grounds.
After a month of heated debates and student protests to tackle “institutionalised racism” at UCT, the statue was finally carted away on the back of a truck to an undisclosed location on Thursday.
The statue had been harnessed to a crane and was lifted away after being detached from its plinth, to which it had been attached with mortar and concrete.
The Pan Africanist Congress, ANC Youth League and Seskhona Peoples Rights Movement joined about one thousand students to support the Rhodes Must Fall (RMF) movement on Thursday.
Scores of RMF members swarmed across the rugby fields after holding a mass meeting at Bremner Building - which has been unofficially renamed Azania House - and gathered at statue singing songs of victory.
Student activist Chumani Maxwele, who initiated what has now become a nationwide campaign to “decolonise” universities when he flung human excrement on the statue on March 9, was seen encouraging students to come closer to the statue.
The statue, which had already been partially covered with blotches of paint and anti-apartheid slogans, was then defaced even further after sachets of white paint were flung on it.
A deafening cry of jubilation echoed around campus as the statue was lifted into the air and a group of students quickly mounted the plinth, punching the air as they claimed a victory in their battle for transformation at the university.
Students then climbed onto the back of the truck and were seen beating the statue with sticks before covering the head of the statue with a black bag, and attaching a sign which read: “This Is Only The Beginning”.
Maxwele said: “Rhodes has fallen. For us as black people our dignity has been restored.
“That statue will always be viewed as a very oppressive and divisive figure, and now it is gone, this is definitely a victory and a step in the right direction.”
Student Representative Council (SRC) president Ramabina Mahapa(corr) said the challenge now would be mobilise students to keep the campaign going.
He said the SRC supported RMF’s call for transformation of the university’s infrastructure, including the renaming of campus roads and buildings, to even the ratio of black and white lecturers and for outsourced staff issues to be addressed.
Xolela Mangcu(corr), an associate Professor of Sociology at UCT, said: “Transformation has been blatantly ignored for years but I want to commend the Council and the Senate for being so decisive.
“I urge them to be just as decisive when it comes to tackling the broader issues of transformation at UCT,” he said.
After the university Council voted to remove the statue on Wednesday night, UCT said it had obtained a permit for the statue’s temporary removal and safekeeping.
UCT spokeswoman Riana Geldenhuys said: “The statue has been taken to a safe location which has been approved by Heritage Western Cape.
“The university will now engage in a public participation process to help determine the final venue of the statue,” she said.
Heritage Western Cape (HWC) acting chief executive officer Hannetjie du Preez said HWC will consider an application for a permit for the permanent removal of the Rhodes statue once the application has formally been submitted.
“Regulations for an application for a permit require a public consultation process with interested and affected parties that must be completed prior to the submission of the application,” she said.
Du Preez said concerns for the safety of the statue prompted UCT to make an urgent application to HWC for the removal and temporary safe-keeping of the statue.
“A recommendation regarding the future of the statue will be submitted to HWC within 90 days,” Du Preez said.