Apartheid-era statues of white leaders ignite furor
Old colonial statues are in the crosshairs in South Africa舊殖民者塑像成為南非眾所矚目的焦點
It all began when a South African student protester tossed feces on a statue of British colonialist Cecil John Rhodes at the University of Cape Town. His protest then ignited nationwide calls to remove other statues of former white leaders. A statue of Britain's King George V on a University of KwaZulu-Natal campus was splattered with white paint. Some activists want a statue of Paul Kruger, a former president of the South African Republic in the late 19th century, to be shifted from a central square in Pretoria, the capital, to a museum. The uproar is part of a larger discussion about change in South Africa. The legacy of apartheid and the white minority rule that ended only two decades ago is often blamed for economic inequality, a struggling education system and other major problems. Mthunzi Mthimkhulu, a technology consultant and former student at the University of Cape Town, stood near the Rhodes statue, which had been wrapped in black garbage bags by protesters. Obscene graffiti also covered the pedestal. "We don't need reminders of where we came from. We know our struggles," he said. "What we need is things that will take us forward."
The Rhodes statue was later boarded up. Rhodes has been described as a "villain" by many, prompting more to want his statue moved. Rhodes, who died in 1902, was "a kind of colonial warlord" and "ardent segregationist" who made a fortune in mining and grabbed land from the local population, said Paul Maylam, a history professor at Rhodes University in the South African city of Grahamstown. Ngoako Ramatlhodi, the mineral resources minister, said there is "still some way to go" before most South Africans, particularly blacks, benefit from a mining industry forged many decades ago to benefit a "select few." Rhodes was also associated with education and philanthropy, partly because of scholarships that carry his name, Maylam said. There have been calls for Rhodes University's name to be changed. University Vice-Chancellor Sizwe Mabizela said there should be a respectful debate to decide that.
Cape Town residents wonder about the fate of the temple- like Rhodes Memorial on the slopes of Devil's Peak mountainous backdrop, overlooking the city. There is also a Rhodes statue in Company's Garden, a central park. One statue arm gestures to the distance and, in a call for British territorial expansion, a pedestal engraving reads: "Your hinterland is there."
Some South Africans complain that faculties at universities are mostly white and that Western-based curriculums ignore African culture. Some also assert that Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader who was elected president in 1994, was too soft on the white minority who still has much power over the country's economy. South Africa is grappling with questions such as should the Rhodes statue and other perceived symbols of racial oppression be mothballed or displayed as warnings of what should never happen again? What, if anything, should take their place? Who decides? Where does it stop?
The most sweeping name change happened in a neighboring country whose name changed from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe in 1980 after white rule ended. Zimbabwe also removed Rhodes statues. Andrew Dhliwayo, a Zimbabwean student at the University of Cape Town, described the Rhodes statue as a useful channel for debate. "The fall of the statue won't change much," he said. "It's just for people to get their views out there."