“Rhodes Must Fall” is something I never thought would receive much criticism. To remove the statue of a man who pushed a racist imperialist agenda seems pretty common sense, but apparently it’s rather a contentious thing. So here’s a crash course on Rhodes for people who have apparently forgotten he’s one of the most ruthless and morally bankrupt people in world history.
I fail to see how anyone with background knowledge of Rhodes could support him; let’s not forget that even the country he named after himself shook off his name, never mind a statue. If Zimbabwe citizens – some of the peoples most devastated by his policies – are ashamed of his name then why do we revere him so? It’ll be hard to talk about Rhodes without making him seem like some sort of colonialist capitalist boogeyman, but truthfully his actions were horrendous. His business life saw him stripping and forcefully searching his underpaid and overworked diamond miners, and his political life was even worse.
The founder of apartheid, he bribed his way into government and then passed legislation to remove the vote from non-whites, purely because they disagreed with his policies. He then set his sights on conquering all of Africa, to create a strip of land from Egypt to South Africa and one monumental railway crossing the continent. He did this, however, by engineering wars with the Boers and creating a false sense of terror within the Government, and by betraying and slaughtering any tribal leaders who stood in his way. A founder of Maxim Gun diplomacy, his attempts to obtain mineral and land rights would often just massacre native leaders who disagreed.
The founder of apartheid, he bribed his way into government
In his last will and testament, he declared that, “I contend that we are the finest race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race. Just fancy those parts that are at present inhabited by the most despicable specimens of human beings what an alteration there would be if they were brought under Anglo-Saxon influence”.
The infamous Rhodes scholarship was made available to British, American, and German students to raise a group of philosopher-kings to one day bring America back under British rule and enter a formal partnership with Germany. Cecil Rhodes’ divisive ideology was essentially a precursor to the 20th century racial fantasises of fascism. It seems very odd that we have people who mocked Americans for raising the confederate flag yet support a statue of a ruthless fascist.
Cecil Rhodes’ divisive ideology was essentially a precursor to the 20th century racial fantasises of fascism
One must not forget the echoes of Rhodes’ work are still amongst us today. Artificial divisions in the borders of Africa bring unforetold misery to the people there. A key example is the nation of Lesotho who, due to Rhodes’ South Africa, have an almost non-existent local labour force as they all travel across the border to work. De Beers still has a shady link with blood diamonds, often obtained with child labour by ruthless paramilitary groups. Furthermore, we must not forget the aftermath of apartheid is still being felt.
One concern I have so often seen, regarding the statue itself, is the idea that destroying the statue is censorship or destroying history in some way. I wish destroying the legacy of colonialism were a simple matter of pulling down a statue, but it’s not. The defence of Rhodes itself is a brilliant example of how we’ve been taught to blindly accept capitalism. These critics also seem to have a crucial misunderstanding of how history and art work. Changing or destroying something in no way erases it, rather it adds to the history of the piece. The tearing down of the Berlin wall did not erase its memory, nor lessen its effects, rather it added a new chapter to German history, one of reunification and peace. The falling of Rhodes adds a new chapter to his legacy, the long awaited condemnation of his butchery.
So what will happen when Rhodes falls? Will an empty gap remain in order to recognise the falling of him? Will a new statue of a more appropriate person be erected? Personally I feel Rhodes must not fall. We should not tear down the statue of Rhodes, we should behead it. The body shall remain as a reminder of what once was, but the lack of head sends a clear message, colonialism and apologism are not welcome and will be destroyed. It should be a legacy of the people who fought against his tyranny and against those who would see him as an icon. It’s time to challenge colonial apologists, and build a better future.