The removal of Cecil Rhodes statue has been in the news for a few days though not south African I can’t help wondering if it was the best thing to do? It raises a lot of questions in my mind including:
1. Is the process enhancing Nelson Mandela’s lifelong fight for unity or is it creating further division?
2. Is pleasing the majority the best solution?
3.. How many more statues will need to be taken down?
4. Will future changes be inclusive of everyone?
5. Is there a plan to ensure the change they crave doesn’t become the one that destroys/divides them.
However having read a lot of write ups and history on Cecil Rhodes I have to agree with the protesters, he was a definite sore spot in the history of the black South Africans. According to Anthony Thomas the scriptwriter for BBC documentary on Cecil Rhodes,
” He (Cecil) stole one million square miles of Africa. His imperial notions were very much a facade. He was primarily driven by personal ambition and a craving for wealth. What is dreadful about him is the nature of his journey. When he set out for Africa he had this understanding and respect for the landscape. But he was willing to adopt the racist policies of the Afrikaners in their most extreme form.”
Some write-ups call him an outright racist, the following words make it difficult to believe otherwise
“I contend that we are the first race in the world, and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race. Just fancy those parts that are at present inhabited by the most despicable specimen of human being, what an alteration there would be in them if they were brought under Anglo-Saxon influence…if there be a God, I think that what he would like me to do is paint as much of the map of Africa British Red as possible…”
In light of the above and several other findings the statue should not be allowed an honorary position in their society as it widens certain scars but a destruction of the statue would be wrong and a wrong attempt to erase history leading to a non inclusive future for everyone. The minister of South Africa’s arts and culture, Mr Nathi Mthethwa said it better
“For far too long our heritage landscape has been viewed through the prism of our colonizers and we have got to challenge that. But to come up with a blanket ban is not helpful – each statue has to be examined on its own merits because each history is not the same. We want to keep them in a museum, not destroy them, because our policy of reconciliation is that we should forgive each other but never forget,”.
South Africa in my opinion has a varied history one to be remembered and celebrated in a way that causes minimal grievance to the culturally diverse citizens who call it home. To abide by its policy of reconciliation I believe erecting new landmarks that commemorate events centered around unity and oneness, devoid of bitter events in their city centers would be appropriate. Those that tell a direct history should be put up in a museum or park (as in Russia) for historically preservation.
Whatever decision is reached in the near future they must en-devour to avoid racial bias and sentiments clouding their judgement.People must not be intimidated or cajoled into agreeing to take down any more statues, leaders should come up with a strategic all inclusive action plan before a mole-hill becomes a mountain. Knowing its African politicians I would not be holding my breath.
Sources of information and research include