So the Cecil John Rhodes statue at the University of Cape Town (UCT) will soon be relegated to some rubbish heap somewhere. Hooray, but wait what happens after that? Well that depends on what side of the debate you are on. There are those who think we should not waste our time revisiting what happened in the past but that we should focus on building for the future. Now builders would tell you that the integrity of whatever you are building is determined by the foundation it is built upon.
It is an undeniable fact that South Africa is built upon a solid foundation of racial prejudice and cultural fascism of which Cecil John Rhodes played no small part in laying. When he was inducted to the Masonic order as a freemason he made the following confession: “I contend that we are the finest race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race. Just fancy those parts that are at present inhabited by the most despicable specimens of human beings what an alteration there would be if they were brought under Anglo-Saxon influence, look again at the extra employment a new country added to our dominions gives” (http://pages.uoregon.edu/kimball/Rhodes-Confession.htm).
In looking at Rhodes’ history the City Press wrote that he had a vast mining empire and had seized more than 8.8 million square kilometres of land through the annexation of present-day Zim of this British industrialist. So what do we do with such a troublesome legacy? Others would argue that we should just be happy with the superior infrastructure bequeathed by the likes of Rhodes and stop resurrecting old issues.
One cynical commentator who disagreed with the latter position suggested that Rhodes was bribing the future by leaving behind the prestigious scholarship that is now named after him. The question is not whether or not we should forget Rhodes’ misdemeanors but how much control should we grant to him now. The man died in 1902 and yet in 2015 he still speaks. Is this healthy and helpful in building a cohesive nation? My view is that the tension between dealing with the past and moving towards the future is necessary but it all depends on how we manage it.
Someone suggested to me that the fall of Rhodes statue represents a psychological victory and a confidence booster for blacks who have to deal with racism at UCT. But would it remove racism? I do not think so. Racial prejudice lives in peoples’ hearts and not in lifeless statues and so we should be careful about sacrificing long term benefits for short term gains. Racism is very offensive but we should not just see it in black and white.
It is more than just a black and white issue; it is about the distortion and undermining of God’s identity and value that is attached to others. Therefore it is undermining God Himself and what He has created and subsequently sent His Son to die for. A racist is a person who is not militating against black or white people but against the God who created them and therefore is under the tutelage of the devil. Removing the statue will help with scoring political points but not with the removal of the kind of thinking espoused by Cecil John Rhodes.
The racist thinking still exists but will only be exorcised by the use of spiritual weapons. I have met individuals who have harbored thoughts of racial superiority and are now free of those thoughts because of divine deliverance. As a country we are in great distress and we need divine intervention on both sides of the racial divide. The unfortunate thing is that healing is not available within our racial enclaves but in a place of serious vulnerability and personal introspection.
If you believe in racial hierarchy and that yours is a superior race, God is available to deliver you from that lie and the same God is available for those who are resentful and bound by what occurred in the past. As for the statue, whether it stays or goes is neither here nor there. If the way we view each other does not change then the removal of the statue would have done very little expect to boost the egos of those who are behind the campaign to have it removed.