The decision has been taken. Now action must follow. His statue at the University of Cape Town (UCT) will be removed from the prominent place it occupies. Thanks to the UCT Council but the students who led and participated in the struggle forcing the Council as the governing body of the university to take the decision. The statue will be moved to a storeroom. Its future will then be decided with the involvement of relevant authorities. But statues like that of the British colonialist Cecil John Rhodes must not be destroyed – they must be co-ordinated and archived in colonial and apartheid museums in different cities and towns across the country as symbols of colonial wars of dispossession, conquest and racist national oppression coupled with patriarchy. All of this was erected on the basis and development of capitalist exploitation and imperialist domination suffered by our people since the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in our land on 6 April 1652.
Future generations deserve to know what happened in the history of all their previous generations. This must be educational, from the classroom to the museums. Those who are opposed to the truth being taught in schools are opposed to history being made a compulsory subject because they thrive in the absence of truth.
They thrive through de-education. This must be defeated! Future generations our people, especially future leaders, the youth, need to know who was responsible for the atrocities suffered in our land. They need to know who committed those atrocities against our people. In addition to how, and in what forms of organisation, did our people in response fight so gallantly, albeit under-resourced, in defence of humanity; in defence of their land; in defence of their resources; in defence of the means of production from which they made a living and which were expropriated by the colonialists and apartheid oppressors who advanced capitalist expansion.
Not only was this brutality bloody violent, but bloody violent and bloody legislative once two British colonies, the Cape and Natal, and two Afrikaner dominated “republics”, Orange Free State and Transvaal, were established, followed in 1910 by the Union of South Africa.
New generations need to know that it was Britain and the white minority supremacists in South Africa who negotiated and established the state based on injustices against the African people in particular and black people in general who were oppressed and excluded from participation on government affairs.
New generations need to know that this was designed not only in the interest of the white minority supremacists in South Africa but Britain. They need to know why there is a place called Port Elizabeth, King Williams Town, King George, or otherwise George, Port Saint Johns, East London, etc., in South Africa. These colonial names, and many more apartheid names, like Rhodes, actually belong to the museum. They are as much a national insult as it is all other symbols of oppression. And they must go! The process must start. Actually yesterday!
Back at UCT, the next step in the struggle to transform the university is to reclaim it from neoliberalism, reaffirm it as a public institution and completely eliminate all forms of racial domination, subtle or otherwise. A neoliberal institution is not a public institution. It only operates under the mask of a public institution and enjoys public funding. While, the reality is that it far removed from the public in various ways.
In addition to one single idea of domination, neoliberalism which defines the choking curriculum environment, UCT is a leading university in South Africa in excluding students from working class families, especially low earners and the poor in general who cannot afford the astronomical fees used to barricade access.
This reserves access at UCT and makes it an elitist affair based on class discrimination in the context where racial domination, as the statue of Rhodes symbolised, continues. The untransformed racial composition of academic staff and dynamics of power relations speak out loudly about this. And of course recently UCT adopted a new admission policy which turned a blind eye on redress in terms of student population. Access to this university is skewed in favour of upper middle and capitalist classes. UCT is highly rated, but the truth is that it only offers access to a privileged few compared to most universities in South Africa.
Alex Mohubetswane Mashilo is SACP Spokesperson, and writes in his capacity as a Professional Revolutionary.