Why #RhodesMustFall, For Dummies

I haven’t weighed in on the debacle over whether or not the statue of Cecil John Rhodes must fall because, frankly, I know precious little about the history of Rhodes. Delivering opinions when you know little to nothing about a subject is something only politicians and Steve Hofmeyer do. 

That said, I do know a number of very clever people who have made it their business to research and comment on these things, so I asked Louise Ferreira, a highly respected researcher and journalist, to break it down in a nutshell for folks like me who are ignorant of the history and the current issues.

I asked Louise what Rhodes did that was so bad it’s caused this outrage, seeing as how – according to many social media “expert commentators” he was responsible for so much infrastructure the still benefits our nation today. 

Rhodes was an imperialist determined to appropriate large chunks of (particularly southern) Africa for the British Empire, with no regard for the people already occupying the land. Among other things, he played an important role in the disastrous Jameson Raid, which was one of the factors in the outbreak of the South African War (the Anglo-Boer War). It is telling that even in an era when colonialism and imperialism was widely accepted, not all of Rhodes’ contemporaries approved of his actions.”

But if we remove the statue, are we not erasing history, and the lesson? 

The ‘erasing history’ argument is disingenuous, frankly. There is a difference between acknowledging history and glorifying someone’s legacy. Statues and names infer honour. This is why streets named after Verwoerd etc have been changed; it doesn’t mean we pretend apartheid never happened.”

And there it is – the whole complex back-and-forth debate wrapped up concisely for you, so that when you express your opinion, you’ll actually know what it’s all about. 

Read Louise’s full Thought Leader article here

Ask Louise. Or follow her on Twitter: @frrlou

© Dave Luis 2015. All Rights Reserved.  

Featured image via Thought Leader


  1. I haven’t really been following the whole story either but am just about wrapping up my two cents in a post of my own. One doesn’t have to follow most of the protests anymore to find that the gist is we are holding on to racism like a comfort blanket because that’s what we know.

    This got me thinking about the street name changes and I’m going to have to do some research on Vanguard Drive that was recently changed and also find out who/what Modderdam (now Robert Sobukwe) was.

    1. Vanguard was changed? Shows you how little attention I pay when I drive! I drive 10km on that road twice daily!
      Can’t wait to read your post.
      On the Rhodes thing, I was just keeping well clear. I didn’t know enough to have an interest, but you cannot be immersed in the media to the degree we are to not be forced to have an opinion, almost – and one of Louise’s comments just seemed to cut through the vitriol and sensationalism – and I thought who better to give a brief synopsis?

      1. The Vanguard name change didn’t occur too long ago. I can’t even get to the new name off the cuff. But I know it’s someone my gran knows of. Never heard of the man before (may his memory live on in the lives of those who knew him), so I have no real opinion it other than we should stop living in the past.

        It’s so sickening that SA orders Racism as main meals with a side of cynicism. At the rate we’re going our kids will claim the ‘victim’ status too.

      2. Sadly I agree! I see so many youngsters on Twitter (well within the born-free age range) of all races dredging up and acting out the rage and hatred and vitriol of the ’70s and ’80s…it’s like we’re doomed to repeat divisive patterns.

  2. I echo your comments regarding born frees protesting…
    A recent experience has made me realise that the mere idea of erecting a commemorative statue of someone who is not black/colored WILL spark the race debate and Apartheid even if this person had absolutely nothing to do with Apartheid.

  3. Thanks Dave

    Short but highly Illuminating article. I too know very little about Rhodes. I keep telling myself that I will get some reading material. From what I’ve read and heard from knowledgeable people, I too believe #RhodesMustFall though. There are some people who have made some utterly disturbing comments on this issue. Calling people baboons and savages. Only to find that some of them know precious little about Rhodes. I certainly hope to see them at Exclusive or Bargain Books soon.

    1. I had zero feelings either way; the repeated popping up in my timeline started to annoy me, and I thought I would find out a bit more before dismissing it or foolishly spouting an opinion with zero knowledge.

  4. This is a most sensitive issue. Rhodes aside, the destructive actions undertaken (with the open support of the ANC and EFF) to other monuments like the poor horse memorial in Mandela Metropole, King George V in Durban, the boers around Paul Kruger and the lone Anglo Boer war soldier in Uitnenhage all scream that tolerance and reconciliation have slipped the collective mind of all the perpetrators. Madiba stated that “South Africa belongs to all its people and that no domination by one group over another will prevail”. How soon we have forgotten. In turn, we must accept that some of the relics and symbols are offensive to others and this offers itself up to debate, and peaceful outcomes for all. Not bloody-minded vandalism and shouts of obliteration, which seems to be interpreted as transformation.

    The truth is these acts, make wonderful new coverage. Debate does not grab one nearly as much. Its too ordered and follows due process. The likes of the EFF, I fear, use these tactics, because they are not skilled in the art of debate. They are only good at creating noise to get desperate attention in order to make their point.

    I see why a number of these things do need to be relocated, but then not replaced with symbols of the so-called majority who “triumphed” over minorities. There is a fine line that needs heeding here. Stomping on the rights of minorities – something which our nation’s Constitution guarantees. Sadly, I see, all too often, many minority groups simply acquiesce and retreat into themselves and do nothing about fighting for their rights too!

    1. I agree completely – in a perfect world, there would be less destruction. In a perfect world, there would not have been this inequality and oppression in the first place.

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