Arts & Culture Dept intervenes in Rhodes statue debate

The ministry's called for cool heads, saying it doesn't support the violent removal of the statue.

Protesting students singing struggle songs on UCT’s Cape Town Campus on 25 March 2015. Picture: Masa Kekana/EWN

CAPE TOWN - The Department of Arts and Culture on Wednesday intervened in the debate over the Rhodes statue at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

The university held a debate on campus on Wednesday about the statue which they feel is a symbol of racism and a lack of transformation at the university.

WATCH: 'Occupy UCT


The ministry's called for cool heads, saying it doesn't support the violent removal of the statue.

Minister Nathi Mthethwa said, "Consultation has to happen with those who are opposed to that. There is no need for populism or propagating violence."

For weeks some students have been demonstrating and calling on university management to take down the statue.

Meanwhile, UCT vice chancellor Max Price agrees that it should be moved.

The discussion got off to a rocky start when former UCT student, Professor Barney Pityana was named co-chair of proceedings.

He stepped down after students accused him of not being objective following views he expressed relating to the statue in a recent newspaper article.

Students and staff expressed their views about the statue and transformation at UCT.

Price said he feels the pain of black students.

"I feel the need to apologise on behalf of the university for the kind of pain they're experiencing for that frustration.

Price said they will be proposing to the Heritage Council to have the statue removed.

He has also received backing from the university's management that the statue should be removed.

"The management at the university which are the Deans, Executive Directors and Deputy Vice Chancellors, are proposing to the senate that the statue should be moved."

Price said it's the Western Cape Heritage Council that ultimately decides whether the statue will be removed.

A second meeting will be held on Thursday.


Students also hung banners around the necks of historical statues in the Cape Town CBD as another form of activism.

The statue of Jan Van Riebeeck and his wife Maria, who were donated by Rhodes, were donned with placards asking controversial questions.