Commemorating the #RhodesMustFall anniversary

21 April 2022 | VC Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng

Dear colleagues and students

It is now seven years since the removal of the Rhodes statue as a result of protest action on campus sparked by the #RhodesMustFall (RMF) movement. On 9 March 2015, Chumani Maxwele flung human excrement at the Rhodes statue on upper campus, starting the movement. A month later, on 9 April 2015, the statue was removed.

The RMF movement is globally recognised for its role in accelerating the decolonial project. More than just the removal of a statue, the movement enabled a deep intersectional examination of curriculum, pedagogy, institutional culture, physical and symbolic artefacts, student experiences, commodification of education, the end of outsourcing and the neo-liberal turn in higher education. The movement and the moment were profoundly disruptive and continue to be deeply impactful. Therefore, it is fitting that one legacy of the RMF was the establishment of a scholarship, ushering in new pathways of scholarship, activism, funding support and the student experience.

In 2020, RMF activists, supported by the Students’ Representative Council (SRC), developed a proposal to establish the RMF Scholarship at UCT. The purpose of the scholarship is to fund and develop scholarship around the three pillars of the RMF movement, namely, Black Radical Feminism, Black Consciousness and Pan-Africanism. The University Student Affairs Committee (USAC) established the RMF Scholarship Committee to achieve this outcome. The RMF Scholarship Committee is composed of RMF activists, SRC appointees, academic staff from the Black Academic Caucus (BAC), and PASS staff from the departments of Student Affairs, Development and Alumni, Communication and Marketing, and Properties and Services.

Since its establishment, the RMF Scholarship Committee took on several tasks. The inaugural RMF Annual Lecture was held on 9 April 2021 as a joint initiative between the Office of the Vice-Chancellor and the committee. I hosted the event, launching the fundraising aspect of the scholarship. During the lecture, Lindokuhle Patiwe, an RMF activist, contextualised the RMF movement; while the then SRC President, Declan Dyer, provided a message of support. Former UCT Vice-Chancellor, Emeritus Professor Njabulo S Ndebele, presented the thought-provoking keynote address, titled “What will rise after the fall of Rhodes?”. The committee hopes to co-host the second annual RMF Lecture later this year.

In November 2021, the Postgraduate Studies Funding Committee approved the RMF Scholarship Committee’s proposed Terms of Reference for a selection committee to adjudicate the RMF Scholarship. This followed the approval to establish the RMF Scholarship under the auspices of the Postgraduate Funding Office. The scholarship is currently being advertised and the committee hopes to make the first award in the next few months.

The fundraising for the scholarship is an ongoing task for the committee to ensure the sustainability of this important project. We therefore invite members of the UCT community to donate to the fund.

The committee is grateful for the departments and stakeholders involved in the project. The current members of the committee are Luna August, Stafford Bomester, Edwina Brooks (Chairperson), David Gibbs, Kumkani Goqoza, Stacey-Lee Harrison, Dr Wandile Kasibe, Professor Nomusa Makhubu, Masixole Mlandu, Lindokuhle Patiwe, Siyabulela Plaatjie, Nobi Rululu, Dr Medeé Rall, Jill Sloan and Nina Taaibosch.

Yours sincerely

Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

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