Chimani Maxwele, a student at the University of Cape Town in South Africa caused a real stink earlier this month by flinging poo at the statue of Cecil John Rhodes on the university’s upper campus, protesting that black students are offended by ‘colonial dominance’ at the university, was indifferent to black students’ classroom experiences and failed to racially transform. Max Price, UCT’s vice chancellor (the equivalent of a university president), who is white, was quick to defend the Cape’s colonial heritage, insisting on moving the statue rather than removing it. Students hit back and online debates quickly turned to protests with last week ending in the statue being wrapped in garbage bags and students demanding a removal date.
Meanwhile, 700 miles away, in Grahamstown (named for a notorious British officer who had starved the Xhosa people into submitting to colonial authority) the Black Students Movement at Rhodes University stood in solidarity with UCT protestors and demanded that the name of their university be changed. It was a sticky situation for Dr. Sizwe Mabizela, Rhodes’s new vice chancellor (VC), just a few weeks after he was inaugurated as the “first black African VC” (the university’s boast). Last week Mabizela addressed a packed lecture theatre at an emergency student body meeting, insisting that the university would lose funding should the name change. Debates will continue this week as young black South Africans, known as the ‘born frees’, gag on the rainbow nation pill they’ve been fed for the past 21 years. Here’s some video shot for AIAC by student journalists at Rhodes University: