I see the University of Cape Town (UCT) students are at it again, protesting that a statue of John Cecil Rhodes be removed from campus. Note that UCT is the top rated university in country at the moment and have a rich history of violent protests. It is sort of a tradition I would say though complaining about Rhodes is a new one. Many of you reading here would not know that the man was reasonably famous more than 100 years ago since he died in 1902 or 46 years before Apartheid came into being. In this part of the world his story is well-remembered.
He was an Englishman who came to South Africa to find his health and fortune and he did. He became a diamond mine magnate in Kimberley where he controlled the world's diamonds for many decades. His company still exists as De Beers, a place known across the world. The money behind him was from the famous Rothschild family - there is no way he could have done it alone. He also went back and studied at Oxford though, as far as I know, he never completed any degree but he did join the free masons and became an ardent jingoist. He had a dream and that dream was to conquer the whole of Africa for the Leeches in Buckingham Palace. In other words, to paint Africa British red and he came very close in succeeding.
Why the Afrikaner dislikes him, besides being a Pommy that is, was the Jameson Raid we spoke about in the first Mean Streets Book. He was 36 years old in 1889 when he established a country just to our north which became known as Rhodesia (called after Rhodes himself). As we know now, that country fought in every engagement which the Brits ever did and lost more men per capita than any other nation. In many ways Rhodesia was famously more "English" than even England. History shows though that they received no support from Leeches and in 1980 (after the hard fought Rhodesian Bush War where members of the South African Police Force learned the counter insurgency trade) they were betrayed to become the failed state of Zimbabwe of today. It is not a place where you want to be without reason but let me tell you, at one stage it was a wonderful country, beautiful (the Victoria Falls etc) and the best educated people on the continent. The last part is still true by the way; they are much better educated and have higher educational standards than most. It is sad what is happening politically.
But what we remember Rhodes for is the Jameson Invasion of 1895. One Dr Jameson decided to attack the Transvaal Republic from Rhodesia in the vain hope that the many thousands of uitlanders (Afrikaans, foreigners) working at the gold mines in Johannesburg would rise and then the British Army could march in to restore order. Well, that was the master plan and Rhodes is suspected (known as far as we are concerned) to be behind it. As luck would have it, they failed and Jameson taken prisoner. It is highly ironic that he was until then known as a healer, a medical doctor who counted President Paul Kruger (of the same Transvaal Republic he attacked) as his patient.
He came close to being hanged by the angry Boers but eventually was handed over to the British for trial in London where he was found guilty and sentenced to 15 months which of course, the Leeches pardoned soon after. In fact, he got away with his mercenary activities. It did however show the British intentions clearly and massive amounts of weapons were bought from Imperial Germany by the two independent Boer Republics to fend off the coming attack. History will show you that the Boers did not wait to be attacked. They declared war on the British Empire and attacked first in 1899 giving the Leeches the fright of their lives. The English lost so badly in the beginning that the period became known to British Military history as the "black week" and they still shudder thinking what took place.
However, the Second Anglo Boer War led to the concentration camps concept where the British Army herded tens of thousands women and children (and black workers) into these concentration camps. There, more than 30 000 women and children, all non-combatants, died because of disease and hunger. Anyone who reads my books would know about this and my theory that it caused Apartheid. We are also still waiting for the Leeches to apologise and until they do will dislike them. Obviously they have no intention and we no intention to forget or to forgive. It has become a nice tradition.
Rhodes was the colonial Prime Minister at the Cape Colony during this time and also involved himself in the siege of Kimberly where he did good work under the civilian population. As a military strategist he was a complete failure and ignored by the British Army officers. Interestingly, another town besieged by the Boers was Mafeking where I believe the boy scouts movement started under Colonel Baden Powel. That legacy still exists today. Another legacy is the well-known "Rhodes Scholarships" which Rhodes created and is still ongoing. Many famous men and women benefitted by this education fund and obtained advanced degrees because of the financial assistance to go to Oxford. You can be sure; it is an intellectual achievement of note to have been a "Rhodes Scholar." Bill Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar. He apparently did not inhale marijuana when at Oxford or so he explained afterwards when confronted. But then the man explained many other things also which made no sense to us colonials. However, he did play rugby there which is a saving grace but it must be noted, he did not complete his degree.
So why is the statute a problem? Well some, the new liberals, are saying it is a symbol of white oppression and should not be on campus. Others are saying he was part of history, it was different times and he should remain. How will this be resolved? Probably by removing him to another spot and destroying history for the sake of long hair liberalism. It is not new in concept here. We often find ourselves lost even with GPS as street names are changed overnight to reflect the new dispensation. Even towns and cities are now called something else and the international airport (the best in Africa by far) in Johannesburg went from Jan Smuts to Johannesburg International and now, Oliver Tambo. Tomorrow it may be something else, who knows. However, history remains; no matter what names you change and how many statues you remove. It seems we still have to learn that lesson.
Koos Kotze is a former member of the South African Police Force. He served between 1985 and 1991 primarily as a sergeant in the Pretoria Flying Squad. After leaving the Police Force he obtained the law degrees B Iuris & LLB at the University of the Free State (Bloemfontein, South Africa) and was a practicing commercial law attorney for eight years. He also wrote several books on business, law, counter terrorism and security issues. He is a widower and lives in Bloemfontein, South Africa.