After nearly a month of protesting and sit-ins, the #RhodesMustFall campaign concluded with the removal of the British colonialist’s statue yesterday. Earlier this week, UCT’s council voted to have the statue moved to a storeroom for safekeeping. They still need to the heritage council’s permission to permanently remove the statue from the university. The National Heritage Act currently protects the statue from defacement or permanent removal until a permit is issued by Heritage Western Cape. If you remember, a few weeks back, Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthetwa said his Department had not yet received any formal application for the removal of any statue in any part of the country. But leaders of the Rhodes Must Fall campaign remain upbeat. In their opinion, the statue’s removal means they’re being taken seriously.
What started a month ago with UCT student Chumani Maxwele emptying a bucket of human waste over Cecil John Rhodes’ statue has inspired a spate of other statue defacements while sparking debate on race and the deeper subtext behind our monuments. Is a statue just a statue? Are they a necessary chronicle of our past—no matter how ugly that past may be? DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane has labelled the wave of statue defacements “a total distraction” from bigger issues such as poverty and inequality while the EFF welcomed the removal “as an important step towards the transformation of our public academic spaces”.
The debate rages on. Even as Rhodes’ was hauled away, the Twittersphere—and some faces among the crowd—we’re still debating whether the statue’s removal would “solve anything”. It doesn’t matter, not to the supporters of the #RhodesMustFall campaign. They have their wish. Rhodes has fallen. Even if it just momentarily.
Photography by @RofhiwaManeta
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