South Africa

Rhodes statue opportunity for transformation: Makamandela-Mququlwa

Current debate raging around the statue of Cecil John Rhodes will provide an opportunity to engage in transformation discussions at the university says the University of Cape Town Ombud Zetu Makamandela-Mququlwa.

According to News 24, in a letter issued by the office of the ombud at UCT on Thursday, Makamandela-Mguqulwa stated the ongoing protests represent a greater need to address racial issues at the Cape Town institution.

“Transformation is a pervasive issue at UCT,” the letter read.

“Given the highlighted need for more transformation, Cecil John Rhodes is not just a name in history but his legacy is experienced by some of my visitors in the present, thus making the university reminiscent of the past.”

Makamandela-Mguqulwa praised the steps the university has taken in the past few years in addressing racial inequality, which included the creation of the ombud’s office in 2011.

The office has since made strides in making university amenities more inclusive, which included the launch of the ‘MyUCT’ initiative.

University life                                      

The UCT ombud, though, stated that the continued protests against the Rhodes Statue have acted as a mere focal point for much broader, perceived experiences of life for previously disadvantaged students on the university campus.

“I doubt if statues, art and images at UCT would be a primary bother if university life was different to what Rhodes conceptualised,” Makamandela-Mguqulwa continued.

“One can appreciate that the students are simply asking for a date for the removal of the statue.

“The current climate gives UCT an opportunity to refocus its transformation agenda, to develop and revive its communal spirit, and to be a true African university where all its members feel that they belong and are proud members of the association.”

UCT protesters are currently occupying the Bremner building at UCT’s middle campus, with their demands of a date for the removal of the statue not having been met yet.

UCT’s leadership groups expressed their support for the removal of the statue earlier this week, but the final decision will require a vote by a special sitting of the university council, due to take place in April.