The statue of Cecil John Rhodes made an unceremonious exit from the University of Cape Town (UCT) on Thursday evening as students pelted it with paint and rubbish. A crane had lifted the statue off its pedestal at 17:37 to much applause and singing.
It took about 10 seconds and hundreds of bystanders cheered when it was lifted and placed on the truck. Seconds later, around 20 students jumped onto the truck while workers prepared the statue for transportation.
One young man belted the statue’s head while another hit it with a wooden beam. They then wrapped red and white tape around the bust and threw red paint over the head and shoulders.
The truck eventually sped off with the students still on the back. It was being taken to an undisclosed location.
Another group of students climbed on the base, where the statue had been minutes before. They held a placard stating: “More than just a statue”.
The removal followed nearly a month of protests, sit-ins and meetings.
The university’s council on Wednesday decided to remove it.
Engineering student Craig Phiri, 24, stood nearby with red paint on his face and a poster stating: “Decolonise Africa now!!”
He told News24 the removal of the statue was a “first step” and was a symbol of a much bigger problem.
“What does it help for the statue to be down when workers are outsourced at UCT, when there are few black lecturers and when the system operates in the same way?”
Thembi Maxwane, a 31-year-old human resources intern, came to witness the event in a smart black lace dress and heels.
Her outfit was soon destroyed when students threw white paint at the statue, splattering her in the process.
Maxwane laughed it off and said she would be keeping the dress to show her future children.
She shook while watching the statue being lifted because she had been dreaming of the moment for many years.
“It was nicely removed. I wanted this statue to fall and crack so I can maybe get the nose,” she said.
UCT student representative council (SRC) president Ramabina Mahapa told News24 it had decided to separate itself from the group leading the “#Rhodesmustfall” campaign.
“It’s not like we are fighting. The SRC will be taking more of a backward role so the campaign can flourish as an independent body,” he said.
SRC deputy general secretary Oyama Botha added that the SRC would be focusing on a variety of student movements and issues, such as financial exclusions. News24