Students at the University of Cape Town (UCT) say there is a lack of understanding and consciousness regarding so called “white privilege” at the institution. The “Rhodes Must Fall” campaign has entered its second week of protest action from students who say the statue is a symbol of the violent oppression and colonialism steeped in South African history.
VOC Newws managed to speak to about six students, from different backgrounds and demographics to get a sense of the underlying opinions on campus. Ranging from the ages of 18 to 23, most of the young hopefuls say the idea of taking down the Cecil John Rhodes statue is not a far off idea. Majority of interviewees say they have no problem with the removal of the statue and quite frankly, do not find any relation to the man as an individual and free South Africa.
However, the form of action which some protesters have chosen to take in recent days, was not accepted by the interviewed group of student participants.
“The act of throwing poo at the statue is an indictment on the protester. Surely we can come up with something better and more constructive. At the moment, I can’t seem to think of something more gross and offensive than throwing poo,” saod 20 year old student, Nick Geffin.
Fellow student, Nabeel Allie says the protest around the removal is a culmination of years of oppression experienced by the majority of black South Africans. Allie says the consciousness surrounding so-called white privilege at the institution has been placed in the lime light as a result of the “Rhodes Must Fall” campaign. In light of this, Allie says the debate is in itself a step forward.
“This is a culmination of student angst towards the lack of transformation at the university. Students have become discontent with UCT administration and management,” Allie added.
“Many people are addressing the issue of ‘white ignorance’ in this case. We must just be patient with some individuals who may not be white but also just ignorant to what the statue represents. It is important that in this debate, no one is vilified. It all boils down to a level of understanding and maturity between students but it is easier said than done. It takes patience for this to be resolved.”
Echoing much of Allie’s sentiments was student, Gealiboga Ramare whose views on Cecil John Rhodes were challenged and dissected with her fellow students just below the statue on Monday.
“This issue is not only about the statue. For me the statue is a symbolism of everything we need to rid the university of. The call is referring to the fall of white supremacy and imperialist thinking. This debate is a way of delving into deeper issues, to decolonise the nature and the institution itself. The statue is a sign of our oppressive past. And an oppressive past that should not be embraced just because, apparently, Rhodes donated land to the University,” Ramare said.
Majority of those who participated in the discussion say the statue is symbolism for the need for transformation at the university. Much of South Africa can still be seen filled with remnants of oppression that many black people say are not being addressed. VOC (Ra’eesah Isaacs)