A few hours ago a colleague in Cape Town and I spoke over the phone. He alerted me to the situation in Cape Town and at the UCT in particular regarding the discussion about whether or not the Rhodes statue should remain at the centre of the UCT. See one of my blog posts about this conflict.
It goes without saying that this is a much bigger issue than just concerning a single statue. Hence students and staff at the Rhodes University have also raised concerns. Protesters at the UKZN have defaced another statue, George V. I have also published a blog post about that.
And now discussions are being held around the Mandela Rhodes Foundation and its colonial legacy.
My colleague in Cape Town made it clear to me that academics question the role of Mandela himself. Was it appropriate of him, to link his name with the name of Rhodes, taking into account the values that Rhodes stood for?
I google Rhodes and Mandela and find two debate articles in Mail and Guardian where Judy Sikuza, programme director of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation, tries to explain how this dichotomy or juxtaposition can be reconciled. I am not totally convinced.
The other debate article is written by Ntombizikhona Valela, a masters’ student in the history department at Rhodes University’s and also a member of the Black Student Movement. She gives the information that there have been debates around changing Rhodes University’s name since the 1990s - in particular since 1994.
Without really revealing her own standpoint she makes it clear that Rhodes University will face huge problems if they don’t listen to the demands from the students:
But, with the emergence of a new kind of student in a different political moment in which young people nationwide are challenging the notion of the rainbow nation and whether we can truly say we are in a post-apartheid era, it remains to be seen whether Rhodes’s final fortress will stand.
My colleague from Cape Town said earlier this morning, young South African feel that Mandela needs to be de-iconized.
We are in for interesting times in the country.