“Viva the Rhodes must Fall movement against racism and exploitation!!
Over the last two weeks a movement has erupted in South African universities demanding real transformation. Students and staff at the University of Cape Town, Rhodes University and Wits University are leading this charge.
We must be clear about one thing – the struggle is not limited to removing a statue or changing a name. It is about making real social changes – in a country that is the most unequal in the world. South African universities reflect this inequality – racial, gender and class.
It is racial inequality because black academic staff are still in the minority. In 2012, blacks accounted for only 14% of all professors (http://africacheck.org/…/how-many-professors-are-there-in-…/).
It is gender inequality because only 13% of academic staff are women.
It is class inequality because cleaners are employed on a month to month contract and in unacceptable working conditions of harassment and intimidation from managers. They are paid poverty wages. Those employed by labour brokers have no pension or medical aid benefits. The overwhelming majority of the cleaning staff are black (non-white) women – who are often trampled upon by middle-class students of “their” colour. Universities are happy to exploit cheap black labour. This reflects social reality in South Africa.
We need to remember our history. It explains the present. The statue and name of Rhodes, Jameson, Livingstone and others is also, in one way, a reminder that we still have not won. It is used by racists to gloat over the fact that they still own most of this country.
But it is also used by black elites, Cyril Ramaphosa and Patrice Motsepe as a reminder that workers must remain in their place. It is a reminder of the Marikana massacre. Whilst Rhodes stood for exploitation, a falling Rhodes can only be meaningful if it means a fall of the system of death wages, alienation and differential weighting of human value based on so-called skills. Difference, be it blackness of any marker of subaltern (post-colonial) identity is not progressive in itself. Progress is the eternal subversion which has to be inclusive and anti all forms of structures of market, patriarchal homophobic racist authority.
We need to also correct lies that are peddled by racists and capitalists. To quote Rhodes himself; “We must find new lands from which we can easily obtain raw materials and at the same time exploit the cheap slave labour that is available in the colonies. The colonies would also provide a dumping ground for the surplus goods produced in our factories.”
Rhodes sought to expand capitalism in Britain. His private company, the British South Africa Company, stole land from Muizenberg in Cape Town all the way to Kenya. Companies that are the successors (inheritors) of the BSA Company include Amplats in South Africa (platinum), DeBeers in Botswana and Namibia (diamonds), Anglo American in Zimbabwe and Zambia (gold, copper and citrus fruit plantations) – almost half of central and southern Africa!
The UCT Council claims that Rhodes gave the land to the UCT and therefore the UCT needs to decide on transformation. Rhodes did not give away “his” land. He distributed land that has been stolen from Africans. The UCT is built on occupied land. We, the black working class, must decide on transformation – not the UCT Council!
The “Rhodes” scholarship fund does not come from Rhodes. It comes from both the sale of minerals that were looted under the barrel of a gun and the workers that are still exploited today by Anglo and Lonmin. This money belongs to the workers and we want it to fund free education!
As the UCT Workers Support committee argues; “It cannot be that students can only learn if workers suffer. It cannot be that academics can only do their work if workers suffer. It cannot be that there is only education if capitalist bosses can make a profit. But it is all happening here at UCT…Rhodes will fall! UCT must change! Together in struggle and solidarity, workers and students, we must change UCT!”
The movement to get rid of the statues and names of those who forced and continue to force capitalism on us can only do justice by fighting to remove the present system of oppression and exploitation – those who benefit from it and those who govern it. Once we have done so we can move onto creating a society free from the violence of poverty wages, unemployment, homelessness, the police and lack of service delivery.
Issued by the United Front
25 March 2015
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