Gandhi & the History & Memory of Racism in South Africa

By Martin Plaut

Statue of Cecil Rhodes being removed. Image from You Tube screenshot

Statue of Cecil Rhodes being removed. Image from You Tube screenshot

The vandalising, and then the removal of, the statue of Cecil John Rhodes at the University of Cape Town has received a good deal of coverage in the international media. The protest by the university student began as opposition to an arch imperialist, who was venerated on their campus. It soon degenerated into intimidation. Lecturers were abused and when the University Council met to discuss the issue protesters stormed the room shouting, “Down with white supremacy!” This was followed by: “One settler, one bullet,” complete with machine-gun sound effects. The Council chairman, former Anglican archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, asked them to leave. They refused, demanding: “Vote, vote!” The removal of the statue has done nothing to enlighten the students, or the public in general, about Rhodes’s role in South African history, for good or ill. Worse still it has unleashed an unprecedented campaign of vandalism. The statue of Paul Kruger, who resisted the British during the Anglo-Boer war, had paint thrown at it. General Louis Botha and Queen Victoria suffered similar fates, but perhaps most worrying of all has been the attack on the statue of Mohandas Gandhi.

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