In 2015, the ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ movement began with the removal of a commemorative statue from the University of Cape Town. This led to an initiative which aimed to decolonise South African education. Five years later, protestors demanded the removal of a similar statue at Oriel College, Oxford University.
Cecil Rhodes served as Prime Minister of the Cape Colony from 1890 to 1896. Throughout this time, he restricted Black rights and spoke of the supremacy of Anglo-Saxons. Calls to remove the statue, which stands on the front of Rhodes House in South Parks Road, centre around the idea that Rhodes is the ultimate representation of imperialism, colonialism, and racism.
On 17th June, governors of Oriel College voted to relocate the Rhodes statue to a museum. However, ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ has called for continuing action right up until the moment it is taken down. They issued a statement saying they had “been down this route before, where Oriel College has committed to taking a certain action, but has not followed through”.
However, many do not agree with the statue’s removal. Daniel Hannan, a former Conservative MEP, posted a tweet advocating Rhodes’s generosity, referring to the international postgraduate award for students to study at the University of Oxford, established in 1902. The scholarship was intended to be given irrespective of race, gender, or class, but has since come under fire for excluding women.
Husayn Kassai, a tech entrepreneur and Oxford alumni, has pledged to “make up for every penny any racist donors pull”, after there were threats of withdrawal of funds to the university, stemming from backlash to the governors’ decision.
Although planning regulations prevent the college from removing the statue immediately, representatives of Oriel College have stated that they will open an “independent commission of inquiry” into the legacy of Cecil Rhodes.