Recent anti-colonial protests in South Africa are reviving bitter racial tensions.
The disputes began when black students from the University of Cape Town (UCT) demanded that the on-campus statue of Cecil John Rhodes be either removed or destroyed.
Rhodes was an extremely successful business man in the early 1900s. He played a major role in establishing and advancing many South African industries including mining, agriculture (fruit farming) and oil.
It was Rhodes’s political career that secured his place in the minds of many as a white supremacist and despot. He introduced the Glen Grey Act that pushed the native South Africans from their lands to make way for industry. He actively disempowered black people, believing the Anglo-Saxon race to be superior.
Rhodes took a vested interest in establishing quality British education by building Rhodes University, creating the Rhodes scholarships and donating the land for UCT to be built on.
Those for the removal of the statue argue that it is a barrier to transformation and painful reminder of their ancestors being disenfranchised and dehumanized under the rule of white colonialists.
As a result historic colonial statues all around South Africa have been defaced and vandalized over the past weeks. Those against this action make the point that we need to preserve history in order to learn from its lessons — no matter how painful.
The point is also made that in spite of the despotism associated with the leaders of this era, they were undoubtedly responsible for establishing and growing the South Africa’s economy rapidly over a short period.
Unfortunately the response by citizens regarding these incidents has deteriorated to racial debate and border-line hate speech on almost every platform.
The lack of tolerance just shows the wounds are too fresh for any meaningful discussion.
A compromise comparable to the one found by Mandela and F. W. De Klerk to end apartheid seems to be improbable. But both sides might do well to remember Nelson Mandela’s own words: “Courageous people do not fear forgiving, for the sake of peace.”
Matthew Klynsmith earned a business administration diploma at CTI in Cape Town, South Africa. He now works at Strategic Options as an associate partner. To read more reports from Matthew Klynsmith, Go Here Now.
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