War Against History: Beheading The Monument To Cecil Rhodes
“Equal rights for all civilised men” and, “I could never accept the position that we should disqualify a human being on account of his colour.” Cecil Rhodes
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New Casualty in the War Against History
The war against historic monuments has now resulted in the decapitation of the bust of Cecil John Rhodes at Rhodes Memorial on the slopes of Devil’s Peak in the Cape Peninsula. Rhodes Memorial offers an unrivalled panoramic view of the Cape Peninsula and is often a site for wedding photographs and film shoots. The Matthew film utilised Rhodes Memorial for the Temple scenes.
Mandela Appreciated Rhodes
President Nelson Mandela publicly praised the vision and educational legacy of Cecil John Rhodes. At a speech at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, 16 April 2002, a century after the death of Cecil Rhodes, Nelson Mandela emphasized the need to:
“…honour… and respect those who have worked to build and develop our country… South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity… we have to harness all of the different strands of our history as we reconstruct and develop our country. We have to ensure that we live together in ways that make all South Africans confident that the country equally belongs to all who live in it.”
In damaging this historic monument erected by the citizens of Cape Town, financed by individual donations, these vandals are guilty of a serious crime. They are also publicly demonstrating their ignorance of what Cecil Rhodes actually stood for and achieved and what Nelson Mandela advocated in respecting those who built the country and developed it for the benefit of all.
Honoured by the Matabele
Cecil Rhodes was greatly respected by the Matabele whose culture he respected. The sons of King Lobengula chose to devote themselves to Rhodes’ service. The Matabele honoured Cecil Rhodes with a traditional king’s burial in the Matopos, where, for over 80 years, they posted guards to protect his grave site on World View. When, in February 2012, ZANU-PF Marxists attempted to exhume Rhodes’ remains, the local Chief Masuku forbade it. Godfrey Mahachi, one of Zimbabwe’s foremost archaeologists, strongly opposed this desecration of an historic monument and tourist attraction.
A Waste of Time and Energy
It is unlikely that the hysterical rioters and destroyers of historic monuments are aware of any of this. That they are merely pawns in a cheap political move, may be the furthest thing from their minds, but damaging historic monuments and tourist attractions are not only meaningless gestures that will do nothing to improve life or education for anyone, but are a terrible waste of time and energy. Such energy should rather be dedicated to furthering education, improving job prospects and encouraging investments in the country.
Unlike most modern politicians, Cecil Rhodes never took a salary when he was Prime Minister of the Cape (1890-1896). In fact, rather than have the state build him a house (as Jacob Zuma did), Cecil Rhodes built Groote Schuur (now Genadendal) with his own funds and he donated it to the Cape as a residence for future Prime Ministers and, with foresight, to be the residence of future Prime Ministers of a united South Africa.
Rhodes bought up and ensured the protection of the land on the slopes of Table Mountain, which he donated to the country, to become Newlands Forest, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens and the Upper Campus of the University of Cape Town.
To Prevent Wars
Most significantly, he provided for the establishment of the famous Rhodes Scholarship, which he envisaged to
“render wars impossible and promote the best interests of humanity.”
In fact, if his vision had been adhered to, the catastrophic First and Second World Wars would have been avoided. It was Rhodes’ vision to unite the British, German, Dutch and American people through education and student exchange programmes, for the betterment of humanity and to ensure world peace.
Rhodes supported teaching Dutch, as well as English, in the public schools in the Cape Colony and donated money for this cause. As Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, he removed the legal discriminations that English speakers had imposed on the Dutch speaking Afrikaaners. He was a friend and supporter of Jan Hofmeyr, leader of the Afrikaner Bond.
Opposing British Aggression
Rhodes opposed the British annexation of the Transvaal in 1877 and supported the Boer cause in the First War of Independence (1880-1881). He also opposed the British invasion of Zululand in 1879.
Rhodes advocated greater self-government for the Cape Colony, for Australia, Canada and New Zealand and opposed interference from London in our local affairs. In this respect it is inaccurate to call Rhodes an imperialist in that he opposed centralised control and advocated autonomy, decentralisation and self-government throughout the British Empire. Rhodes was devoted to Queen Victoria but he scornfully disdained the politicians in Whitehall.
Devoted to World Peace
Rhodes greatly respected the Germans, admired the Kaiser and provided for German students to be included in the Rhodes Scholarship. He believed partnership between the United Kingdom, the USA and Germany would ensure world peace.
Great South African
In 2004, Cecil Rhodes was voted 56th in the SABC Television series, Great South Africans.
Some of Rhodes’ quotations that seemed to have been forgotten are:
“Equal rights for all civilised men” and
“I could never accept the position that we should disqualify a human being on account of his colour.”
Ignorance and Ingratitude
So, those hooligans who have attacked and campaigned against monuments of the man who donated the land and provided the money for the University of Cape Town and whose Legacy funds education worldwide, are not only demonstrating crass ingratitude but abject ignorance on the matters that they are demonstrating about.
It seems hypocritical to campaign against Cecil Rhodes, who never took a Pound out of the public treasury for himself, but who provided for the education of literally millions over the last century, while ignoring the ongoing atrocities and corruptions of Blood Diamond criminal dictators, like Mnangagwa, in Zimbabwe, today.
Perhaps a more meaningful demonstration against Cecil Rhodes would be, for those offended by him, to refuse to study on a campus that he provided for, or to benefit from any of the Educational Trusts that he set up and funded.Rhodes CottageThose who live in Cape Town would do themselves a favour by visiting the humble Rhodes Cottage in Muizenberg where Cecil Rhodes died and acquainting themselves with some of the legacy of this farsighted and incredibly influential figure in our history. His last words were: “So little done. So much to do.”
A Battle for Historic Truth
Whether we like Rhodes, or not, we all benefit from his legacy. If mobs can damage, or remove one historic monument, then no monument is safe. This is not about Rhodes. This is a battle over history. It is a war against civilisation, the rule of law and education itself! “And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32
Dr. Peter Hammond
P.O. Box 74 Newlands 7725
Cape Town South Africa