There has been a recent increase in the abolition of anything Rhodes in South Africa and Zimbabwe. The continued presence of Rhodes’ grave in the Matopos hills has not been without controversy in contemporary Zimbabwe in times past. Most recently however, Zimbabwean youths were stopped yesterday from digging up the remains of Cecil Rhodes from his grave in the Matopos Hills, just outside Bulawayo where he was laid to rest in 1902. Rhodes had been an ardent believer in the idea of British Colonialism and was the founder of the southern African territory of Rhodesia, which was named after him in 1895. Hence, he was finally laid to rest at World’s View, a hilltop located approximately 35 kilometres (22 mi) south of Bulawayo, in what was then Rhodesia. Today, his grave site is part of Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe.
Historian Richard A. McFarlane has called Rhodes “as integral a participant in southern African and British imperial history as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln are in their respective eras in United States history. Most histories of South Africa covering the last decades of the nineteenth century are contributions to the historiography of Cecil Rhodes.
The Zanu-PF youths had assembled at the party’s Bulawayo offices, from which they intended to go to the hills and rid Zimbabwe of the corpse of Rhodes and send him back to where he rightly belongs in Britain. However, a directive from Zanu-PF headquarters in Harare halted their plans.
A Zanu-PF youth activist from Masotsha Ndlovu district, Zweli Malinga said:
“We strongly support what is happening in South Africa. We cannot stand seeing whites coming from abroad every day to honor and conduct rituals before their ancestor who is buried on our own land,”
This is in solidarity with protests in South Africa calling for the removal of Rhodes’s statue from Cape Town University. He went on to say ”We cannot stand seeing whites coming from abroad every day to honor and conduct rituals before their ancestor who is here buried on our own land. The sooner they take [Rhodes] to their own land the better. If they do not we will do it ourselves.”
In December 2010 Cain Mathema, the governor of Bulawayo, branded Rhodes’ grave outside the country’s second city of Bulawayo an “insult to the African ancestors” and said he believed its presence had brought bad luck and poor weather to the region, this is mostly because the grave site is considered an important national and historic monument on protected land which attracts a lot of tourist visitors every year.
This is obviously not the first time attempts have been made to remove anything Rhodes from Zimbabwe, in 2012, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe blocked attempts by “war veterans” to exhume Rhodes’ remains.
A member of the Zanu-PF politburo, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, said: “We decided to preserve it after independence for historical [reasons].”
The deputy head of communication at the British High Commission in Pretoria, Isabel Potgieter, said it was up to South Africans and Zimbabweans how they handled the Rhodes saga. “It is not for us to comment. It is for stakeholders in the countries to decide,” she said.
The protest continues in Kimberly and the University of Cape Town where students are still calling for the removal of the statue and naming the protest Rhodes Must Fall.
Despite all of the trouble brewing, the Vice Chancellor of Cape Town University Max Price has taken out time to make his stance about the campaign clear. He said yesterday that the comments amounted to hate speech. “This is totally unacceptable and I condemn it in the strongest possible terms.”
The statue of Rhodes has been a topic of heated protest at the university since student Chumani Maxwele threw feces at it on March 9.
Price said yesterday that senior management at the university had agreed with him that the statue be moved.
“A proposal for the statue’s future will be made to various bodies this week, including the institutional forum today and the senate on Friday,” he said.
UCT communications manager Pat Lucas said consultations with stakeholders this week would lead to a vote by UCT’s council.
“The proposal will be put forward at these meetings. There is no way of predicting how the council will respond,” she said.