Rhodes activists gunning for Oxford

Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh

Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh

Published Jul 16, 2015


Johannesburg - The Rhodes Must Fall (RMF) campaign at Oxford University has sparked both interest and controversy in South Africa and the UK.

Earlier this year, major debates surrounding colonial statues in South Africa resulted in the removal of the Cecil John Rhodes statue from the University of Cape Town. The movement recently gained traction in the UK.

On Wednesday, organising member Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh, son of national EFF chairman Dali Mpofu told The Star: “RMF Oxford is a movement to decolonise the curriculum, iconography and demographic profile of the University of Oxford.

“We call ourselves Rhodes Must Fall because Rhodes is symbolic of the change needed… (and) many other things must fall too,” he added.

Mpofu-Walsh said it was important for racial marginalisation to end. In addition, male supremacy must also be addressed, including the marginalisation of the LGBT community.

“Rhodes is a metaphor for the fact that the university is not a fully inclusive space.”

Although it’s only five weeks old, the movement has made ripples in the media, both in the UK and internationally.

“It has drawn students from various countries, such as Canada, New Zealand, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Namibia and the US. There are some South African students too, but it is by no means a South African movement.”

Mpofu-Walsh said the movement was inspired by the Rhodes Must Fall and Open Stellenbosch campaigns.

Through these, RMF Oxford members had begun educating themselves on Rhodes, as well as Oxford’s role in colonialism.

“Much of the design and implementation of British colonialism occurred at Oxford. We also realised that if we could revolve our campaign around a central metaphor - that of Rhodes - we could achieve more than if we tackled multiple issues in an unconnected way.”

Asked what the movement hopes to achieve, Mpofu-Walsh said they wanted to start a critical conversation at Oxford about the university’s implication in colonial violence.

“We also want Oxford to improve its representation of ‘black voices’.

“For instance, the university accepted only 24 black British undergraduates this year, and doesn’t have one black senior professor.

“We want the curriculum to focus on the whole world, not just Europe or the US,” he pointed out.

The Star

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