Rhodes Must Fall

For the past couple of years the fate of confederate monuments and other symbols of historical white supremacism has been increasingly debated. People have faced grave consequences as serious as prison time and some have even lost their lives fighting to rid the country of these symbols honoring the men and women who perpetrated acts of hate and violence. While this debate deals with American historical figures, the United States is not the only country having this debate. Since 2015, students of many universities in South Africa have been fighting to remove monuments of Cecil Rhodes from campuses across the country, creating the movement Rhodes Must Fall.

 

Namesake of the Rhodes Scholarship, Cecil Rhodes was a British-South African Businessman and politician. In the late 1800’s, Rhodes, as leader of De Beers Consolidated Mines, controlled over 90% of the worlds production of Diamonds. He later became Prime Minister controlling both the country’s government and capital. During his time as head of De Beers and as Prime Minister, Rhodes contributed to to oppressive policies and practices against the black population of Southern Africa. While he was president of De Beers, the company exploited the work of the people of South Africa and the surrounding countries through migrant labor policies. Workers were subject to horrendous conditions in the mines that almost exclusively people of color were subject to. He also, as president of De Beers and as Prime Minister, he led imperialistic missions around Southern Africa to maintain his capital power. He eventually would take over the territories of modern Zimbabwe and Zambia that he named Southern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia. His political career was ended abruptly after the controversy of the Jameson Raid, but his legacy continues to live on in South Africa and around the world.

 

The movement of Rhodes Must Fall is not the first time students have fought to have monuments depicting Rhodes be taken down. In the 1950’s Afrikaner students at the University of Cape Town led protests to remove the statue of Rhodes from campus as he represented the time of British rule in South Africa that Afrikaner nationalists wanted honored no longer.

 

The Current Rhodes Must Fall movement started in 2015. The leaders of the movement describe it as: "a collective movement of students and staff members mobilising for direct action against the reality of institutional racism at the University of Cape Town.” While the movement started at the University of Cape Town, it has spread to universities around the country and has developed into a fight against white supremacy and privilege in general on campuses through civil disobedience..

 

The first protest occurred in 2015 protesting the Bronze statue of Rhodes on the University of Cape Town’s campus when Chumani Maxwele threw feces at the statue. The protest ended with a physical altercation with campus security. As a result of the protest, administration decided to hold a town hall, but a week later, in the administrative building. The students later that month voted to remove the statue, and it was eventually removed April 9, 2015.

Similar protests soon spread to university campuses around the country. Statues of Rhodes and other symbols of oppression and white supremacism were defaced in similar manners and the efforts to decolonize education in South Africa continued.