UCT Council votes in favour of removing Rhodes statue

08 April 2015 | Photo Michael Hammond.
Students from the #RhodesMustFall movement waiting for the final Council decision on the statue of Cecil John Rhodes on upper campus.
Students from the #RhodesMustFall movement waiting for the final Council decision on the statue of Cecil John Rhodes on upper campus.

Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, chairperson of UCT’s Council, issued the following statement regarding the status of the Rhodes statue, following a special sitting of Council on 8 April 2015.

UCT Council votes in favour of removing Rhodes statue

UCT Council has voted in favour of removing the Cecil John Rhodes statue from UCT's upper campus, at a special sitting held on 8 April 2015. This follows a month–long series of protests by UCT students which foregrounded the debate around statues, symbols and the impact these have on the climate of inclusiveness on the UCT campus.

Although Vice–Chancellor Dr Max Price had announced a programme to review symbols and names in October last year, the depth and breadth of feelings on the issue unleashed by the student protest challenged us to accelerate the consideration of the Rhodes statue, in particular.

This process has been orderly and deliberative, canvassing the views of students, Senate, academic and PASS staff, convocation, alumni, and the public. It has certainly been enriched by hundreds of articles in the newspapers, discussions on radio and television and on social media. We have noted the extent of the support amongst all the groupings for removing the statue. This process has been vindicated by the number of people who have come into the debates opposed to removing the statue and who have changed their minds as a result of the frank engagement. This is exactly how a university should work and we believe is an example to the country in dealing with heritage issues.

The upper campus precinct is a declared provincial heritage site and is thus subject to heritage legislation. UCT will immediately submit an application to Heritage Western Cape to have the statue removed. However, in view of the Council decision we have concerns about the safety of the statue and believe that the only way to protect it while Heritage Western Cape is considering our application will be to temporarily remove it for safekeeping. The University has obtained a permit for temporary removal for safekeeping and we will remove the statue tomorrow.

The university will now continue with the planned review of other symbols and names over the remainder of this year. Furthermore the student engagement on this issue has added an energy and urgency to addressing many other aspects of transformation and has mobilised members of the university community not previously seized with the issue. The university management will partner with the students, different staff structures and the UCT community to review and refocus our transformation plans.

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