The article "Why Price is wrong over Rhodes" by Adekeye Adebajo in Sunday Independent on 29 March 2015 demands a response.
Adebajo writes that "UCT's Vice-Chancellor's eagerness to spring to the defence of the indefensible and inglorious Cecil John Rhodes is astounding".
Adebajo succeeds in completely distorting the view I hold on Rhodes. First, he fails to mention that I, personally, have repeatedly stated that I regard Rhodes as a villain, the perpetrator of ruthless exploitation of indigenous people, land expropriation, illegal wars and vicious conquest.
Second he fails to remind readers that I, as well as the entire senior leadership group of the university, have publicly expressed our view that the Rhodes statue must be moved.
Third, Adebajo's entire 1 200 word article and the incorrect conclusion he draws in relation to my views on Rhodes is based on a single uncontextualized sentence he extracted from an article (The Independent 22 March) that substantially abbreviated the original two-page interview with me that was published in the sister publication, Sunday Argus, on 22 March. Perhaps as a result, Adebajo fails to note that my comments about Rhodes were made in response to a question about why UCT had accepted the statue in the first place in the 1930s and why it had been left unchallenged there for eight decades. Why, I was asked, if I and most commentators think Cecil John Rhodes was such a dishonourable man, judged that way also by many of his contemporaries, why then was he so admired by many in history and why was the pressure only now to bring his statue down?
My response was that Rhodes was seen by many over the past generations as a philanthropist, military strategist of the empire, diplomat, and successful businessman. This is not my personal view of this historic figure, as Adebajo asserts, but simply an attempt, based on biographies of Rhodes, to explain why he has often been viewed as one of the 'great men of history'. Of course, it is also true that many more held pejorative opinions of Rhodes as an arch-imperialist.
Unfortunately Adebajo's article misleads the public about what my views are on Rhodes and also misses the point I was trying to highlight regarding the complexity of judging historic figures.
Dr Max Price, Vice-Chancellor
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