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Four offers for UCT’s Rhodes statue

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UCT has received four offers from parties who are willing to take its controversial statue of Cecil John Rhodes.

In addition it could also find a new home at a former presidential residence – the Groote Schuur homestead in the city.

The statue, which was removed from UCT’s upper campus on April 9 last year, remains in storage, with the university still in the process of applying to Heritage Western Cape (HWC) for its permanent removal.

In a report compiled by heritage specialist Ashley Lillie on behalf of UCT, he recommended that HWC issue a permit authorising the removal of the statue and that it remain in safe storage until a decision is made about an appropriate permanent location.

According to the report, which is dated November 11, the four offers to house the statue came from the Crow Foundation in the US, the owner of a series of properties adjacent to the Cheetah Foundation at Paardevlei in Somerset West, the Nooitgedacht Estate near Stellenbosch and the South African Institute for Heritage Science and Conservation (SAIHSC) at Twee Riviere, Langkloof, which is midway between Port Elizabeth and George.

The report says the Crow Foundation was willing to pay for the relocation of the statue to a sculpture garden in Texas “that includes works of Winston Churchill and Vladimir Lenin on condition that the Foundation would become the owner of the statue”. The SAIHSC has proposed the relocation of the statue to its campus “where it may serve the purposes of education and research”.

The report says the public consultation process had also resulted in other possible locations being suggested.

“The latter are however locations in the public domain such as museums, Rhodes Memorial, Groote Schuur Estate and so forth, where both the desirability of the locations and the attitude of the owners remain untested.

UCT is however in agreement with suggestions that the possible placement of the statue at the Groote Schuur homestead should be investigated.”

It says Rhodes Memorial “is a carefully designed memorial within the precincts of which it would be difficult to position the statue without interfering with the structure of the whole”.

The homestead, on the other hand, “given its position on the Estate bequeathed to the nation, warrants serious consideration”.

In a press release, which followed a week after the statue’s removal last year, the university called for public comment regarding its proposed permanent removal.

According to Lillie’s report, 227 comments and registrations from interested parties were received during the period provided.

“Slightly under half of those responding (but more than half of those who provided some form of comment relating to whether or not the statue should be relocated) are opposed to the removal of the statue from the university (some of these suggest relocation to a less visually significant place on campus). Many of the comments opposed to the removal from its current location or removal from campus were generally based on the contribution made by Rhodes by way of donating the land on which the University is located and suggestions that removing the statue will be an attempt to erase history,” it stated.

In September, a copy of a draft heritage statement was distributed to all interested parties. Thirty-nine comments were then received by October 20.

In a statement in February, Heritage Western Cape said it had considered the heritage statement made in November and “had requested greater clarity as to the views of the student body, specifically that of the Students’ Representative Council and the Rhodes Must Fall movement in respect of the proposed removal of the statue”.

On Wednesday, UCT spokeswoman Patricia Lucas said the additional information, which had been requested from the university, would be delivered on the new deadline of July 13.

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