The big racial divide: Rhodes statue

24 March 2015 | Story by Newsroom

Noluvuyo Mpekelana, an information systems student at UCT and founder of Inside Out Mentors, a non-profit organisation dedicated to educating young girls and encouraging them to have an entrepreneurial mindset, speaks up about how she's experienced the last two weeks' worth of debate and protest on campus.

A quote that came to mind after this Rhodes statue saga:

"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality" – Desmond Tutu

What has happened during the last two weeks is not something to be proud of. Yes, it is painful to see that we still have buildings, statues and roads that are named after those who once oppressed black people. While we might think it makes sense to remove all those statues and rename the roads, I often ask myself what benefit it is going to bring when the evil resembled by those statues or names is still very much alive.

While we cannot sit back and allow certain things to take place, how we go about addressing those issues is key. What is concerning for me is to see future professionals and leaders conducting themselves like hooligans. Since when do we have to 'poo protest' to voice our views in a democratic country? Now this is what I call 'black arrogance'. I hope that relevant disciplinary action is taken against those students who think poo is the way to solve problems.

In an institution that is currently undergoing transformation, I assume there are structures in place to address such issues. It is quite disappointing to see things get to this point.

The statue does portray an image of 'white supremacy', yes. The main question is not whether the statue should move or not, but whether the removal of the statue is the solution. Yes, the statue needs to move, that should no longer be the debate. It is for this reason why we have places like museums.

Yes, history has revealed Rhodes as power-hungry and greedy, using mercenaries and gangs to evict people from their land down the barrel of a gun. I am not disputing the wonderful works of Rhodes; we cannot only remember the evil, but should also acknowledge the good things he has done.

The main problem with South Africa is this sense of entitlement – I am guilty of it too. At times I find myself saying Steve Biko did not die for this, or Nelson Mandela did not spend 27 years in prison for me to suffer like this. In reality Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela are gone. They have built their own legacy. Now it is up to me to build my own legacy.

After reading the racial comments on social networks regarding this issue, I decided to share my thoughts, not to open a platform for racial attacks but to look at things differently. I mention black and white in my article as it is the new language in South Africa. It is a language that we all need to move away from. Transformation can only begin when we see beyond colour.

Noluvuyo Mpekelana is an Information Systems student at the University of Cape Town and a founder of Inside Out Mentors, a non-profit organisation dedicated to educating young girls and encouraging them to have an entrepreneurial mindset.

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