Nine former presidents of the Student Representative Council (SRC) support the widespread call for the immediate removal of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes situated on UCT’s upper campus. Their letter follows below:
An open letter to Chancellor Machel, the Chairperson of Council, the Vice-Chancellor, and members of Council:
We, nine former presidents of the Student Representative Council (SRC), support the widespread call for the immediate removal of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes situated on the university's upper campus.
We wish to remind the university that this debate is not new. Recent events only serve to confirm that UCT can no longer justify defending the statue's existence, nor can it ignore its political significance. We also believe that this is a poignant opportunity for the university to reaffirm its own stated aim of "making UCT a place that is 'owned' by all its staff and students, and by the community".
We reject as revisionist the idea that removing the statue would 'erase' Rhodes from the university's history. Instead, it would simply end the unreflective public glorification of Rhodes at the expense of the legitimate feelings of those the statue offends on a daily basis.
We also reject as ahistorical the idea that UCT 'owes' anything to Rhodes, since the land that he purportedly 'donated' was not his to 'give' in the first place. Further, Rhodes' vision of a university built exclusively for white males could not be further from UCT's supposed aspiration today. Such a vision is also at odds with the Constitution; a Constitution born out of the collective struggles of many, black and white.
As an important educational institution, UCT has a duty to play a meaningful role in our country's process of collective healing. In this respect, the university has a particular responsibility to listen to the voices of those against whom – with the help of Rhodes – it systematically discriminated for decades.
The university has not made sufficient progress in transforming since we were student leaders. We acknowledge that addressing the full legacy of centuries of racial bigotry will take time, and that removing the statue is not a panacea. Still, we believe the statue's removal presents an opportunity for progress, and we see no reason not to take it. This should not detract from the other dimensions of transformation to which the university is committed.
As former presidents of the SRC, we urge you to act with the necessary haste in addressing this issue.
Jerome September, SRC President 1999
Nqobizitha Mlilo, SRC President 2005
Andiswa Magadla, SRC President 2006
Zukiswa Mqolomba, SRC President 2007
Thulani Madinginye, SRC President 2008
Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh, SRC President 2010
Insaaf Isaacs, SRC President 2012
Lorne Hallendorff, SRC President 2013
Nommangaliso Gondwe, SRC President 2014
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