Cape Town - UCT students came out in their hundreds to attend a meeting on the controversial statue of Cecil John Rhodes on the upper campus on Thursday, with scores calling for the monument to be removed.
Thursday’s meeting outside Jameson Hall came after human excrement was thrown at the statue on Monday. Some carried posters stating “I am not UCT” and “Black matters: Remove Cecil John Rhodes”.
Comments included that the statue showed white success while there were no symbols of black success, and that it represented land dispossession and had to go.
Some students wanted it kept, and one suggested it be moved from its prominent position overlooking the rugby fields to somewhere else on campus.
Kgotsi Chikane, “an ordinary student” who organised Thursday’s event, said name-calling and other “in your face” forms of racism were easy to see but “but when an institution actively works against a group of students but doesn’t even know that it’s doing it then we have a problem”.
“That’s what’s happening at UCT.”
He said the institution had “for so long” ignored real transformation.
Student Joshua Nott said: “You wouldn’t see a swastika in Jerusalem”.
The Ses’khona People’s Rights movement’s Loyiso Nkohla, who addressed students, said they would approach Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande on the legal avenues that could be followed to have the statue removed.
“We can’t have a management that doesn’t listen to the students. This matter has been raised for many years,” he said.
In a statement on Wednesday, the UCT Students Representative Council endorsed the call to have the statue removed.
“This university continues to celebrate, in its institutional symbolism, figures in South African history who are indisputedly white supremacists. Rhodes has been praised for donating this land to the university, building the South African economy and bringing ‘civilisation’ to this country. But for the majority of South Africans this is a false narrative - how can a coloniser donate land that was never his land in the first place,” said SRC president Ramabina Mahapa.
UCT spokeswoman Patricia Lucas said the university would “certainly consider” the call to have the statue removed but was mindful that the campus community comprised different groups of people with many different opinions.
“Alumni, staff and historians also have their opinions. This is one reason why we have initiated, with the SRC, a series of discussions on managing the challenges of transformation, to help identify ways that we might move forward. Our first meeting with be held at 4pm on Monday.”