'Rhodes Must Fall campaign was a wake-up call'

UCT on Thursday said transformation issues should have been addressed a long time ago.

FILE: Marching down the steps towards the Cecil John Rhodes statue and using the slogan ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ students demanded the statue be taken down on the UCT campus, because they said it represented institutional racism. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - The University of Cape Town (UCT) on Thursday said the 'Rhodes Must Fall' campaign has been a "wake-up call" not only for tertiary institutions, but the entire country as transformation issues needed to be addressed a long time ago.

On Wednesday night UCT's council voted in favour of removing the contentious Cecil John Rhodes statue, which has to leave the premises by 5pm on Thursday.

UCT Council Chair Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane said they would take up the transformation agenda for a robust debate on how South Africans could move forward after the statue was removed.

"I think we are crying for leadership in the nation as a whole to give direction on these matters and to engage with us. Universities are places for discourse and discussion so we hope we can generate a discussion, moving us forward."

UCT student Chumani Manxwele said he was pleased with the decision taken.

"For the first time at UCT, white people are told to sit down and listen and do as black people are saying. I hear that they asked to show pain that there was no leadership. He himself has shown no leadership in the university in relation to fears and black pain at the University of Cape Town."

The protest also reached the doorstep of Parliament where a statue of Louis Botha, the first Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa, was smeared with red and purple paint.

"A debate on whether these statues should be commemorated in public spaces or be relegated to museums has elicited strong emotion from both sides of the spectrum.

Bellville resident Chris Herbst was walking past the statue of Louis Botha on Thursday, when he noticed it smeared with red and purple paint.

"There is racism still in the country, just under the surface. If you do something like that, it's going to bring it out."

Local Chantal Kitunganu said she supported calls for the removal of statues like this one in front of Parliament.

"This statue doesn't remind us of good things, so why should we be looking at it?"

Meanwhile, lobby group Afri-Forum planned to hand over a memorandum to an official from the Arts and Culture Department on Thursday, calling on government to protect these monuments."

The Arts and Culture Ministry said the decision to move the Rhodes statue was a step in the right direction for transformation.

The department's Sandile Memela said, "As much as there was a protest around it, it was resolved in a very peaceful manner. That shows that people of this country can work together to resolve their problems or challenges."

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