On Law

What to do with Rhodes Statue? #Headache

Since receiving an email from the UCT Alumni Dept, I have read so many comments on this issue – from Black Rhodes recipients and White Rhodes Recipients to current Professors and retired Professors; from students who throw poo and battle to reach 30% averages in their 5th year of study to Gareth Cliff. And more.

And now I have just emailed my official response to haveyoursay…

After watching Carte Blanche and the state of Free State hospitals (dismal) and a rare disease that could be misdiagnosed as a mental disorder which could see you in a straight jacket for months.

And another exposing of the “overreaching” of a certain attorney (otherwise known as charging exhorbitant fees) which gives fuel to the widespread sentiment of the “lowlife profession” of attorneys (to which I too belong).

And after listening to Dennis Davis debate with Helen Zille and Pierre de Vos about aspects of the Constitution and whether the ANC /Zuma should have so much influence over important appointments such as in the IEC and NDPP.

And after a long family lunch ( washed down with a little wine of course) with my mum and dad and sister ( a rare and special occasion)

And after trying to understand how I get a new follower from Twitter (usually male , definitely single ) who writes sci-fi and scary fiction and lives in a place I have never heard of when I write non-fiction nonsense as a mother

No wonder I have a headache…

UCT invites your comment on the future of the Rhodes statue
As a concerned member of the UCT alumni community, I have read many posts and comments on the way forward with the Rhodes statue and grappled with this issue. This is my considered view.
It is trite that that “the legacy of Cecil John Rhodes undeniably forms an inescapable part of our history”. It is also an inescapable fact that this history is a shared one, and one which will always be viewed from two diametrically opposed perspectives: those who see his colonization and contributions (the land on which UCT rests, the academic scholarships,etc) as wholly beneficial to our present reality, and those who see his work almost entirely as a legacy of oppression and exploitation.
This country is filled with symbols of both oppression and transformation though the widespread evidence of roads, cities and airports being re-named, statues and monuments of our struggle heroes appearing would suggest more of the latter. But these are mere symbols of a country attempting to unify a country of extreme polarities of wealth and privilege on one hand, and frustrated and impatient expectations on the other.
We must accept that our democracy is new and struggling; that in the process of trying to rebuild and equalize a nation to benefit everyone and where, in particular, education is the vital key, constructive engagement and negotiation are essential.
And transformation takes time.
And so yes, I do believe UCT is committed to transformation (it is evident in student ratios which are now 72% black) and is attempting to create a diverse university community but this does not have to be accompanied by a destruction of everything which is also part of a shared history. And it should be impressed upon the SRC that failing to engage with important issues is not going to make transformation any faster or change the course of history.
But UCT should not have to kowtow to the demands of students whose sense of impatient entitlement is directed towards a destructionist mentality, similar to bullying tactics. The privilege of being able to study at an academic institution comes with the duty to engage in considered debate and mutual respect.
And though, of course, my perspective is that of a white, privileged alumna, it is in the interests of all future students, both black and white that there is a culture of mutual respect. If we leave the Statue right there (even though I accept that it’s brooding form may be imposing) it may just be the first step in realizing the aspirations of our Constitution as reflected in its preamble:

We, the people of South Africa,
Recognise the injustices of our past;
Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land;
Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and
Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity

And then perhaps the best solution may be, as has been suggested, to hold a referendum by all students and staff to assist the UCT Council to understand the true sentiments of its transforming campus as a whole: an exercise in true democracy.


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