University of Cape Town students, calling for the removal of the Cecil John Rhodes statue, on Monday said they were staging a sit-in at the campus.
“We, the Rhodes Must Fall movement, are occupying the Bremner building with the intention to disrupt the normal processes of management and force management to accept our demands,” the group said in a statement.
The students occupied the building because of its historic and strategic significance.
“It is the place where management carries out its activities, and these are precisely the activities we seek to subvert,” the group said.
Rhodes, 1853-1902, was a British colonialist, businessman, mining magnate, and politician in South Africa. He founded Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) which was named after him in 1895. Rhodes University is also named after him. Provisions of the Rhodes Scholarship are funded by his estate.
Last week, a student reportedly emptied a toilet on the Rhodes statue at the campus. The statue was covered with black rubbish bags. The Rhodes Must Fall group planned to implement political education at the campus.
“This education forces us to reject these narratives and their normative nature because they reinforce our displacement both geographically and existentially.
“We have begun to question the entire neo-colonial situation, whether South Africa belongs to all those who live in it and whether it is us the people that are occupying this building or whether we are realising the fact that this building and its land always belonged to the people,” the group said.
Last week, UCT Vice Chancellor Max Price, said the statue should not be destroyed, just moved. The students rejected his suggestion.
“We are here because we are calling into question the legitimacy of the supposedly democratic process Dr Max Price has put in place to address the removal of the Rhodes statue,” they said.
Notices had been put up around the university asking for students’ input. Alumni had been e-mailed and asked to share their views.
“This is unacceptable to the black (by this we mean all oppressed people of colour) students, workers and staff belonging to this movement,” the group said.
It argued that only those directly affected by the statue should have a say about its future.
“White students in particular cannot be consulted in such a process because they can never truly empathise with the profound violence exerted on the psyche of black students.
“Opening up the discussion to an alumni that is overwhelmingly white and male will only prejudice black people, and black women particularly, in the decision-making process,” the students said. SAPA