Rhodes' synonymous with darkest era of our history - Office of ANC Chief Whip

It is wrong to have monuments glorifying the legacy of such individuals who embody such an evil system


19 March 2015

Earlier this week the EFF sprung an opportunistic motion in the National Assembly urging the House to support the campaign by Black students of the University of Cape Town for the removal of Cecil Rhodes' statue from the grounds of the University.

We raised an objection to this motion, not because of its thrust, but because it was convoluted, politically opportunist and undermined the longstanding parliamentary procedures regarding such motions.

In terms of procedure, motions requiring the unanimous decision of the House must be circulated by the sponsoring party amongst the rest of the parties at least a day before the next sitting to afford them sufficient time to consider it before deciding. Any motion that is parachuted to the House, thereby violating this time-honoured practice, as was the case with EFF's motion, cannot as a principle be accepted by the House. It is clear that, as with its many previous motions, the EFF was more interested in political grandstanding than having the House adopting its motion.

As the ANC in Parliament, we expresses our support for the courageous efforts and campaign by the progressive students of the University of Cape Town, under the leadership the university SRC, to transform the institution - including removal of racially offensive symbols.

We align ourselves, as the Majority Party in Parliament, with the bold call by the students for the immediate removal of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes. Rhodes's name is synonymous with the darkest era of our country's history, in which Black people were subjected to a murderous, unjust, inhumane, criminal and oppressive system on the basis of the colour of their skin.

The evil system of colonialism and apartheid in South Africa, which systematically dispossessed Africans of their land and other means of livelihood, oppressed and stripped them of their human rights and dignity, had figures such as Hendriek Verwoerd and Rhodes as prime masterminds.

Having monuments glorifying the legacy of such individuals who embody such an evil system, particularly at a University which is still struggling with racial transformation more 20 years into democracy, undermines our on-going endeavour for national reconciliation and unity. It is therefore understandable that the Black students at UCT would feel offended and frustrated with that university slow transformation process and monuments celebrating that which is wrong and repugnant with our past.

We are fully cognisant of the fact that the mere removal of the Rhodes statue would not bring about overnight transformation at the UCT. However, it would serve as a significant and profound gesture by the University management regarding its seriousness for transformation and racial inclusion.

We agree that such historical monuments serve as a reminder to the nation never to forget our collective history and to value the future we have. However, their location should not be offensive or make other races feel unwelcome in the country of their birth, as is the case at UCT.

We will, in line with the strategic objectives of the national democratic revolution, always support progressive campaigns that agitate for speedy transformation in all sectors of our society - including the removal of hurtful and objectionable colonial symbols that stand in direct contradiction to the non-sexist, non-racial and prosperous society we seek to build.

We will, at an appropriate time, table a proper parliamentary motion on this matter.

Statement issued by the Office of the ANC Chief Whip, March 19 2015

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