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Sheer hypocrisy of these two Rhodes Scholars


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Sheer hypocrisy of these two Rhodes Scholars

OPINION / 29 January 2017, 2:30pm

Dennis Pather

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Students surround the decades old bronze statue of British colonialist Cecil John Rhodes, top left, as the statue is removed from the UCT campus. File picture: Schalk van Zuydam/AP

Two #RhodesMustFall activist are now beneficiaries of a prestigious scholarship that honours that much-despised imperialist, writes Dennis Pather.

 

How do you think Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko would have reacted to an offer of financial assistance for his medical studies had it come from the office of apartheid police minister Jimmy Kruger?

I can safely say he would have declined the offer with absolute contempt.

As highly principled leaders, they would not have sold their souls. It would have made a mockery of everything they fought for in their respective struggles.

Which brings me to the paradox of the two #RhodesMustFall activists, who fought to have the Cecil John Rhodes statue removed from its prominent place on the UCT campus and are now beneficiaries of a prestigious scholarship that honours that much-despised imperialist.

As Rhodes Scholars, Joshua Nott and Mbali Matandela will soon take up studies at Oxford University on scholarships worth over R670 000.

While one side of me says “good for them, this kind of opportunity only comes once in a lifetime”, another says “hold on there, this smacks of sheer hypocrisy”.

Take Nott – the 23-year-old was a vociferous #RhodesMustFall campaigner who held up placards urging fellow students to join the protests because that statue symbolised racism and colonialism.

It was, he said, akin to “a swastika in Jerusalem”.

Now Nott is trying to justify his acceptance of a scholarship that comes from a trust set up by the colonialist he so despised.

Defending his stance on social media, he claimed he planned to use the Rhodes scholarship to “defeat the ideals it originally stood for.” Ho-hum, ho-hum.

The attempt by Matandela to rationalise her decision was also not convincing. She said she saw the scholarship as reparation for past injustices.

“To me, it’s about redress. I’m a person of conviction, so being a #RhodesMustFall activist was about linking up different struggles that highlight the expectations of Rhodes as a colonialist. I’ve come to think of my being at Oxford, and having this scholarship as reparation,” Matandela was reported to have explained.

When they do locate Rhodes’s abandoned statue gathering dust in a remote campus storeroom, they’ll find it hard to wipe the smirk off his imperialist face.

The Sunday Independent



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