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Five reactionary responses to the #RhodesMustFall movement

The student-led campaign to get the University of Cape Town to remove the statue of Cecil John Rhodes has gained momentum over the last two weeks. The point of the protests is to spur people to into action, but the reactions they’ve caused are a story in themselves. PONTSHO PILANE sums up five of the most ridiculous reactions to the #RhodesMustFall campaign.

1. Black Monday and the swastika photos
Activist group Black Monday put pictures of Adolf Hitler and the swastika up all over UCT’s Jameson Hall on Wednesday. As expected, there were complaints to the SRC about these anti-semitic images. However, according to Black Monday, the group is not anti-semitic, and “condemns the use of the swastika to incite any kind of violence”.

Okay then, but just what were they trying to achieve? Apparently, in using the swastika, Black Monday sought to “present Rhodes in a way that is relatable to the majority of students”.

“We wanted people to walk to campus and see symbols of evil. We wanted them to feel uncomfortable and to complain. But mostly we wanted people to empathise with our cause.”

Erm, yes, it is possible to follow the logic, just about … until we get to the bit about people empathising. Using the swastika to promote empathy? Sorry kids, you’ve lost us there.

Read the full statement below.

2. The Democratic Alliance quotes Madiba
In a statement about the controversial statue and the protests around it, the Democratic Alliance has asked students to evoke the spirit of Nelson Mandela and just let it go.

Referencing Madiba’s rededication of the 1820 Settlers Monument in Grahamstown in 1996, the DA said: “Instead of Mandela tearing the monument down, he was impressed with how the city had reconciled its settlers past into a new democracy.”

“UCT should emulate these values by the father of our nation. The University should rededicate its existing monuments and create new ones to rededicate and commit itself to a project and vision to actively make the greatest university in Africa a home for all,” the statement read.

Trying to silence black voices by quoting Madiba – when will the DA ever learn? Sigh…

3. The “If you don’t like Rhodes, then don’t use his money to study” brigade
Really, there’s nothing much we can say here; the post is self-explanatory. Read it and weep.

4. Gareth Cliff plays the Shaka card
On Wednesday, musician Simphiwe Dana posted a screenshot on Twitter detailing Gareth Cliff’s thoughts about the movement to remove the Rhodes statue.

Cliff expanded his thoughts on his blog – comparing Rhodes to Shaka Zulu.

“I like the fact that King Shaka has an airport named after him. That doesn’t mean I have to like King Shaka. Cecil John Rhodes may have been the most successful imperialist agent of Victorian Britain, but his contribution to history (let alone education) is unquestionable,” Cliff wrote.

Gareth, we hate to break it to you, but you’re never going to be as rich as Cecil John Rhodes. And that’s a good thing.

5. The “if it weren’t for Cecil John Rhodes, the world would be worse off” guy
And then there’s this:

Scott Herbst [redacted]

Besides not knowing that Rhodesia and Zimbabwe are the same country, this guy thinks Cecil John Rhodes “started the growth of a nation”. Because he was such a nice guy, hey?

Hopefully when you grow up Scott, you’ll no longer be among those who feel that the world would be worse off had it not been for those plucky colonialists! As you say: there’s always another side to the story…

While you ponder these reactions gone wrong, what other ridiculous reactions have you seen online? Drop us a line with the links.

– Featured image: By Ra’eesa Pather.
2 Comments
  1. Simphiwe Majova says

    Your reaction should be amongst the ones you have listed on your blog. There’s one thing i can’t stand more than a racist, and that is someone who makes his “fame” from the work of someone else. Like Rhodes scholar beneficiaries or you for that matter. I would forgive Rhodes and all his sins if i were to get a scholarship like that. Would save my single mother from having to work as hard as she does and would save me from having to pay back the loan i have to study. Keep up the criticism!

  2. Chris Lawrence says

    Your ‘2. The Democratic Alliance quotes Madiba’ doesn’t make much sense to me I’m afraid. Why is expressing an opinion which you don’t share an example of ‘Trying to silence black voices’? And why shouldn’t the DA quote Mandela? If they can’t then nor should the ANC, considering how far the current ANC is from his values. And that ‘when will the DA ever learn? Sigh…’ – what does that mean? When will the DA ever learn that reasoned debate is pointless in this country? When will the DA ever learn that they must be a ‘racist’ party which will ‘bring back apartheid’ because so many voices claiming to speak on behalf of the majority keep insisting that they are?

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