7 more statues from our colonial past we found in Cape Town

Sabelo Mkhabela

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The #RhodesMustFall movement, which began at the University of Cape Town, is forcing us to think deeply about the life of Cecil John Rhodes. The British colonialist, mining magnate and politician died in 1902, but his legacy thrives almost unquestioned through statues, institutions and programmes named after him. But Rhodes is not the only dead […]


The #RhodesMustFall movement, which began at the University of Cape Town, is forcing us to think deeply about the life of Cecil John Rhodes. The British colonialist, mining magnate and politician died in 1902, but his legacy thrives almost unquestioned through statues, institutions and programmes named after him. But Rhodes is not the only dead white man from our colonial past that stands tall in Cape Town. Here are more legacies cast in stone we found in the City Bowl alone (including another of Rhodes).


Louis Botha (1862 to 1919)
Location: Roeland Street, just in front of the National Parliament


Louis Botha, the first prime minister of the Union of South Africa – a predecessor of present day Republic of South Africa, believed in totally segregating blacks and whites, except where blacks were needed as workers. In 1913, his government introduced the Native Land Act, which saw only 7% of South African land being owned by blacks, and the rest, you already know. The policy was known as the “Policy of Segregation” as it prevented blacks and whites from living together. This statue still stands in front of the national parliament 21 years deep into democracy. EFF leader Julius Malema, speaking at a Human Rights Day celebration in Langa, Cape Town was quoted saying: “Every day, we are not only depressed by [speaker] Baleka Mbete, we get depressed first by Botha. When you get inside, you will find Baleka with Botha tendencies, and that is worse. There’s no way she cannot act like Botha because she is inspred by Botha in front of Parliament.”


Jan Christian Smuts (1870 to 1950)
Location:  Company’s Garden


Jan Smuts, another former prime minister of the Union of South Africa, viewed Africans as immature human beings that needed the guidance of whites, a sentiment shared by most whites at that time. He was once quoted saying, “These children of nature have not the inner toughness and persistence of the European, not those social and moral incentives to progress which have built up European civilisation in a comparatively short period.” In another speech in London in 1917, he further reiterated that sentiment: “Natives have the simplest minds, understand only the simplest ideas or ideals, and are almost animal-like in the simplicity of their minds and ways.”


Sir Henry Timson Lukin (1860 to 1925)
Location: Church Square


Sir Henry Timson Lukin was a commander of the Cape Colonial Forces army – the Cape Colonial government’s official defence organisation. In terms of contemporary racial attitudes, Lukin as a white colonial soldier exhibited clearly little that would have distinguished him from the settler mentality of that time. Upon first arriving in Natal, after being put in charge of a group of black labourers, Lukin threatened them with a revolver after a dispute arose over pay. (Johnston, Ulundi to Delville Wood, p.18.)


Cecil John Rhodes (1853 to 1902)
Location: Company’s Garden


British imperialist, Cecil John Rhodes founded mining company De Beers in 1888 and became premier of the Cape Colony in 1890. He implemented laws that would benefit mine and industry owners (who were all white at that time). He introduced the Glen Grey Act to push black people from their land and make way for industrial development. He seized millions of square killometres of African land including Zambia, Malawi and present-day Zimbabwe (which he named Rhodesia). He died a wealthy man in 1902 and left The Rhodes Scholarship which has seen students from previous British colonies studying in Oxford University. He contributed to Cape Town’s infrastructure, including the land which UCT is built upon, a piece of land he “donated”.


Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr (1894 to 1948)  
Location: Church Square


And then there’s the good guy. An intellectual of note, Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr was against the idea of racial segregation. He spoke against bills discriminating against indigenous peoples such as the Riotous Assemblies Bill, the Native Service Contract Bill, the Mixed Marriages Bill, the Representation of Natives Bill, the Native Trust and Land Bill, and the Native Laws Amendment Bill. He was also against the Asiatic Bill which was against Indian people, the Provincial Legislative Powers Extension Bill, and the European Women’s Restriction of Employment Bill which were all meant to prevent Indian business owners from employing white people. Of course, there was only so much the man could do, he did not speak against the Native Laws Amendment Bill, which aimed at controlling the migration of black workers from rural areas into urban areas and controlling where black people were allowed to live in the city. It’s hard to believe Steve is a Hofmeyr, isn’t it?


Sir George Grey (1812 to 1898)
Location: Company’s Garden


The first statue to be erected in Cape Town was of 1854 to 1861 Cape Colony High Commissioner Sir George Grey. Though he dealt firmly with black people, he tried to protect them from colonists by setting apart some land for their exclusive use. He tried to pacify the friction between the Xhosa and the colonists. He established an effective administration, assisted missionaries, and built roads. He is the founder of Grey College in Bloemfontein and Grey High School in Port Elizabeth.


King Edward VII (1841 to 1910)
Location: Grand Parade


The United Kingdom’s King Edward VII’s statue was erected in 1904 to celebrate the British colonial period of the Cape Colony.


Rhodes in UCT



On the statue of Cecil John Rhodes on UCT upper campus, wrapped in disposable waste bags and masking tape, a poem by French West African, David Diop, is plastered to the concrete base: “The white man killed my father because my father was proud. The white man raped my mother because my mother was beautiful. The white man wore out my brother in the hot sun of the roads because my brother was strong. Then the white man came to me. His hands red with blood, spat his contempt into my black face out of his tyrant’s voice: ‘Hey boy, a basin, a towel, water.” For more information on the #RhodesMustFall movement by some UCT students, check out their Facebook page.


These are only a few statues we could snap in just one sweep through the CBD of The Mother City. There are many others all over South Africa. Do you feel these statues that stand to seemingly honour colonists should be destroyed? Let us know in the comments section or on Facebook and Twitter.


Sources: UNISA, Wits, UCT websites, Wikipedia and South African History Online.


Additional contribution by Niamh Walsh-Vorster

Images by Sikelelwa Nene and Niamh Walsh-Vorster