About the SA Student Protests Against C. J. Rhodes’ Monument

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Early on this month, Chumani Maxwele began what would become an impassioned demonstration against all things present reminding all Africans of White Colonialism.

According to reports, Maxwele – a 30 year old University of Cape Town Politics student went and flung human waste on Cecil John Rhodes‘ statue that stands magnificently on campus grounds. We will never know what exactly motivated Maxwele to make such an outburst. Whether it was the general student frustration at exams, lecturers, living conditions or whatever – I doubt he ever thought his public outrage would spread like wildfire and be recorded in history.

Following this evidently enraged protest, there were countrywide debates and discussions about history’s place in the present. This resulted in the approval to remove the memorial of the British Colonizer and just yesterday we were reading about Matebeleland students who in solidarity with the South Africans had begun their own protest demanding that C. J. Rhodes’ grave be exhumed.

The discussion of course that would follow this is: what is Africa‘s attitude towards its colonial history and what does this imply? Rhodes’ monument on the UCT campus may be seen as an arrogant constant reminder of how Africa was brought to its knees by the Colonialists of yesteryear; the statue and every other thing that has its roots in that period – names of roads, buildings, institutions and the whole lot. Is it not an insult to those who died for the continent’s independence to have these things continue to exist?

It’s part of history? What about our history as a black people that actually celebrates our successes? Why do we not have impressive, spectacular and striking memorials of Tshaka, Mzilikazi, Mbuya Nehanda, Sekuru Kaguvi, Samori Ture, the Rozvi kings, the emperors of Ethiopia… and all that we know to be African? However, the fact that we did not think to put our history in stone shouldn’t be the colonialists’ fault should it? They decided they wanted to make sure they left their mark wherever they had existed and as it so happens, those marks have survived the passage of time.

Those monuments are also part of history are they not? Who’s history though we may ask? Ours, the colonialists or us both? Is there anything wrong with continuing to remember the people who for centuries made our lives miserable? However, if we think about it, Rome left its mark all over Europe and yet, the vanquished never felt the need to remove the vanquisher’s reminder of that glory. Shall we then follow suit or is this a totally different situation altogether?

What in your opinion is the place of Africa’s colonial past in today’s world? Shall we have constant reminders of it or should we remove all things reminding us of that horrible period. But erasing history today does not mean it never existed. Therefore, if we were to choose to continue to remember that history, from which perspective should we immortalize it? The Continent owners’ or the other team?

What are your views?

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