Much of March was dominated by student protests that broke out at the University of Cape Town to remove the statue of a prominent colonial figure in the shape of Cecil John Rhodes. This revolutionary fire was promptly caught by students at an institution named after the man, namely, Rhodes University. This protest movement has become popular under the hashtag #RhodesMustFall on social media.
Expectedly, this sparked great debate in the country, but the most interesting counter-argument to the #RhodesMustFall movement, which this piece will attempt to explore, is the absurd #ShakaMustFall retort where there’s a call to remove Shaka Zulu’s statue at the airport named after him in KZN. A bandwagon, reportedly, hopped on by Afrikaner singer, and renowned racist, Steve Hofmeyr and his ëRed Octoberí partisans, recently.
Cecil John Rhodes is the bloke credited for the beginnings of one of the most atrocious and, indeed, harrowing episodes in the ensuing black man’s struggle for humanity, namely, apartheid. Rhodes, in actual fact, solidified segregation policies in their amorphous stages in the country. Notwithstanding, Rhodes rose to wealth and prominence at the deliberate cost of mass genocidial pogrom on black bodies. His immortalization in the form of statues, therefore, is constant insult to black people in South Africa in the wake of apartheid’s demise and democracy’s birth.
As inferiority and superiority complex stratifications continue in this country amongst black and white people, respectively, it is unsurprising that some whites, conservative to liberal, are at the mere whiff of young blacks, finally, waking from a rainbowism-induced deep sleep – too quick to quell our efforts to have one of their ancestral darlings removed from our gaze. They are quick to police our every move and thought, thus practicing their fallible position as perpetual teachers and blacks perpetual students. They ironically practice non-existent concern for black lives lost in Shaka’s wars, while they live in privileged positions built on black social and biological death by Rhodesian and Vervoedian white supremacy.
Defending the great Shaka is an unnecessary and therefore tedious task, but for the sake of this discourse one is inclined to point out just a few things. Shaka’s conquests were in a warfare context. In his victories, were there was inevitable death, even on his side, he incorporated the defeated tribes into his own, therefore, building a nation to defend against an upcoming evil. Shaka was not about dehumanization, humiliation and extermination – to which Rhodes claims a special right. Rhodes and Shaka’s killings cannot be the same! To quote from an article that can be found on the official UCT’s Rhodes Must Fall page on facebook:
“To put it simply, if Shaka had colonized Europe and we were debating taking his statue down in Leicester Square, while his descendents still earned on average 6 times the native British people, and their children were being educated in the language of the conquerors, then we can start comparing. To pretend otherwise is effectively historical denial. ”
In conclusion, while this protest movement does not bring immediate change to the destitute conditions of the black in this country; the likes of Siya Mnyanda and Barney Mthombothi should realise that what the Rhodes’ statue represents and the critical conditions facing SA right now are fundamentally linked. Hopefully, the removal of Rhodes’ statue will not be the end, but rather the beginning of a gradual removal process that will see other standing monuments of apartheid and white supremacy, including Eurocentric education, effaced from our existence as we seek not mere reform, but complete transformation of the system and make of it what we wish.
By: Wright Black