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Rhodes statue removal ‘only the beginning’

The 'Rhodes Must Fall' movement has vowed to keep pushing for change after the statue was removed yesterday.

The statue of Cecil John Rhodes is being removed from the University of Cape Town on 9 April 2015. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN

CAPE TOWN - The so-called 'Rhodes Must Fall' movement says it will continue pushing for change at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

The group was behind protests calling for the statue of Cecil John Rhodes to be removed.

The institution's council this week voted in favour of having the sculpture taken down, and it was moved yesterday for the first time in 80 years. The council will now have to apply to the National Heritage Council which will decide what to do with the statue. In the interim, the structure is being kept at a secret location.

Yesterday the crowd cheered as the statue was hoisted off the university's upper campus.

Students cheering as the statue of Cecil John Rhodes is being removed from UCT on 9 April 2015. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN

UCT's Student Representative Council (SRC) Ramabina Mahapa says he's pleased with the university management's speedy response.

"We thought that this might be take about six months to actually come to a conclusion [sic] but we're very happy that we've been able to speed up the process from our side."

He says this is the first step in the process to speed up transformation at the institution.

"The SRC will be submitting a comprehensive document that actually outlines the challenges and possible solutions to them."

WATCH: #RhodesHasFallen

A student-cum-activist says now that the Rhodes statue has been taken away from UCT's campus, the next move is to see more black academics at the institution.

Chumani Maxwele sparked weeks of protests after he dumped human waste over the sculpture, prompting the intense debate around transformation.

He says the statue's removal is only the beginning.

"The next move is to ask the vice-chancellor of the university by the end of next year, to have 50 percent of black South African professors and change the curriculum of the university. That for me is the most important thing and is the hardest challenge we're facing."

At the same time, the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) in the Western Cape says the campaign to have the Rhodes statue removed from UCT symbolises that transformation and decolonisation must take place.

The league's Muhammad Khalid says the organisation finds it "unacceptable that are only 27 black professors and not a single female black professor amongst them".

"We'll find changes in terms of admissions policy, changes in terms of the staff demographic."

The South African Heritage Resources Agency says the removal of the Rhodes statue is a sign of deeper critical issues facing students at UCT.

The agency's Veliswa Baduza says this was merely the tip of the iceberg.

"If you listen to the debates and what people are saying, they're calling for transformation. Yes, the statue is gone but what is the next issue they're going to mention of UCT is not looking at the whole holistic agenda of the institution."

Former South Africa Reserve Bank Governor Tito Mboweni says apartheid and colonial-era statues are a reminder of South Africa's troubled past, and should be preserved.

But he's applauded the decision by UCT to remove the Rhodes statue.

"I agree though that the statue must move out of the campus at UCT and be put it somewhere else but it must be put somewhere else, it will act as a reminder, a point of reflection of what happened in the past."

Meanwhile, AfriForum Youth has demanded that government protect their heritage by ensuring statues and monuments are safe from vandals.

The organisation has given the Department of Arts and Culture just under three weeks to respond to a memorandum it handed to Parliament yesterday.

It comes after several sculptures were defaced by people calling for the removal of apartheid-era and colonial statues.

Several sculptures in the Eastern Cape, Pretoria and Cape Town have been defaced in the wake of protests that started at UCT last month.

Spokesperson Henk Maree says, "These are definitely unacceptable procedures that are being followed by certain authorities. We feel there is no way to justify acting outside the law; we do have a Constitution and a democracy. We should enter into a healthy debate so that we can find a way forward."

The Economic Freedom Fighters' (EFF) say it's unapologetic about its 'support' for the removal of apartheid-era and colonial statues.

Lobby group, Solidarity has threatened to go to court to interdict leaders of the party from inciting people to destroy statues.

The movement's Johan Kruger says EFF leaders are inciting the vandals.

"We think that all statues in South Africa should be protected. The way to deal with any political debate is to actually have a debate and not to remove any statues."

But the EFF's Mbuyiseni Ndlozi says they will continue to 'support' the demands of those calling for the removal of statues.

"We even celebrate that the response of the university to its own protest. Government and all other institutions responsible for public space must follow the inspiration of UCT."

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