Rhodes statue: thousands to march
Share this article:
Cape Town - Thousands of supporters are expected to join UCT students in a protest march on Friday to demand that the university’s management tackles transformation at the institution and removes the statue of Cecil John Rhodes.
Leaders of the ANC Youth League, EFF, Ses’khona People’s Rights Movement and student bodies from across the province said they would march in unison with UCT students on Friday.
The students have vowed to occupy UCT’s Bremner Building, which houses the University Council offices, and remain there until their demands are met. They are even prepared to sleep there, student leaders said on Thursday.
On Wednesday, UCT vice-chancellor Max Price said he felt that the statue should be “moved” as it is a symbol of the university’s colonial past.
Spearheaded by the university’s student representative council (SRC) and an activist group called Rhodes Must Fall (RMF), the students’ plight has drawn widespread support.
The SRC and RMF have taken a hardline stance towards university management, citing institutionalised racism and discrimination against black students and staff, and accusing management of delaying transformation at UCT.
After almost two weeks of protests and open discussions around campus to highlight their cause, the SRC’s Facebook account was hacked and deleted from the social media platform on Wednesday. During a protest at the statue, students blamed university management.
UCT spokeswoman Gerda Kruger responded: “It is rather unfair to publicly lay the blame at council’s door without proof. Making public accusations without bringing the matter to the table is unhelpful.”
The UCT students’ demand to remove the Rhodes statue also inspired a protest at Rhodes University earlier this week. Students in Grahamstown expressed solidarity with their UCT counterparts before storming Rhodes University’s administration building to protest against what they called its own memorialisation of Cecil John Rhodes.
Rhodes University students echoed UCT students’ sentiments about colonialism and institutionalised racism, which they argued were inherent in issues of inequality at that university.
UCT student and activist Chumani Maxwele, who initiated the campaign after flinging human excrement on the Cecil John Rhodes statue on March 9, welcomed the support coming from Grahamstown.
Maxwele is expected to appear at the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court on Friday on a charge of common assault related to the March 9 incident. He is accused of assaulting a security guard who had attempted to prevent him from throwing the human waste at the statue.
SRC chairman Ramabina Mahapa said one of their demands was for the charges against Maxwele to be dropped.
“The statue must come down. The charges must be dropped. We will occupy the Bremner Building and sleep there indefinitely until our demands are met. We are not interested in what Max Price has to say. We want to hear how the council will meet our demands,” he said.
RMF spokeswoman Kealeboga Ramaru said they would also draft a mandate that would be handed over to management at the Bremner Building.
Kruger said: “The executive is preparing to meet the students, and the hope is that the engagement may lead to further discussions.”