Rhodes VC says university’s brand is separate to that of Cecil John Rhodes

As the debate concerning the fate of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes at the University of Cape Town continues, students at Rhodes University have begun to speak out against institutionalised racism and are advocating for the university to be renamed. AAISHA DADI PATEL reports. 

Speaking to Radio 702’s Stephen Grootes on Thursday, Rhodes University vice chancellor Sizwe Mabizela said that there was currently no process underway to change the name of the institution as it now “represents academic excellence”.

The name “Rhodes”, according to Mabizela, now evokes ideals of advancement of education and has a particular identity and brand which is separate to that of Cecil John Rhodes.

Sizwe Mabizela headshot [supplied]Mabizela argued that if former president Nelson Mandela “could find it within himself to attach his name to Cecil John Rhodes to create the Mandela-Rhodes scholarship, who are we to create a purist issue?”

He also said that the issue at hand was a broader need for South Africa as a nation to determine how to deal with its past, by coming to terms with history and thus moving forward.

Meanwhile, editor-in-chief of a student-run Rhodes newspaper The Oppidan Press, Stuart Thembisile Lewis, outlined in a Facebook post why he thinks this is a battle worth fighting – even if it is one that may not be won.

“I do not think we will win this battle. But I think we must fight it, if for no other reason than it can be utilised to force real change and maybe, one day, win this war.” Lewis wrote.

An online poll was also set up for people to weigh in on what they thought Rhodes University should change its name to. A whopping 81% (615 votes) voted that it should stay the same.

– Featured image via by Rossvdlinde via Wikimedia Commons; image of Mabizela: supplied.