Vandalised Rhodes statue restored

The bust of Cecil John Rhodes returned to Rhodes Memorial.

The vandalised bust of Cecil John Rhodes at the Rhodes Memorial was restored on the eve of Heritage Day.

The Friends of Rhodes Memorial (FRM) took on the task of returning the head to the bust after it was chopped off in July.

FRM chairperson Gabriel Brown says they repaired the head at their own expense.

SA National Parks (SANParks) regional spokeswoman Lauren Clayton says FRM approached SANParks after hearing about the vandalism and offered to restore it.

“We jointly agreed and worked on the restoration process as soon as possible,” she said.

Mr Brown said the head had been welded back on, reinforced and fitted with an alarm and GPS to prevent further vandalism.

Rhodes Memorial was a special place for all people from all walks of life, race, religions and political beliefs, Mr Brown said.

“Most folk go to the memorial to enjoy peace and quiet, all part of a Cape Town experience,” he said.

Rhodes, a British imperialist and mining magnate, was the prime minister of the Cape Colony from 1890 to 1896. He has become a polarising figure, representing the South African colonial past.

The vandalism happened in the wake of the global Black Lives Matter protests that saw statues seen as glorifying racial oppression and colonialism defaced and toppled.

In his Heritage Day address, President Cyril Ramaphosa backed the removal and relocation of any monument, statue or symbol that glorified racism and historical oppression. The FRM says it sees all statues in Cape Town as part of the city’s rich heritage.

“We would prefer people adding new heroes and villains to the political and heritage landscape and narrative, rather than reducing, or censoring it,” Mr Brown said.

He added: “Our diverse histories will be around longer than the ANC and EFF and National Parties. Their threat to reducing our history will be a sad loss for further South African youth.”

On the SANParks-Table Mountain Facebook page, many people welcomed the restoration of Rhodes Memorial.

The Black People National Crisis Committee (BPNCC), which previously praised those responsible for vandalising the statue, condemned the restoration.

BPNCC convener Songezo Maziz said: “We are not surprised that those who benefit from white power and the preservation of white privilege would do everything in the power to hold on to that privilege.”

Professor Shadreck Chirikure, head of UCT’s department of archaeology, told the Tatler in July that the decapitation of the statue should be seen as “a cry for help from the long suffering, the marginalised”.

However, he said, removing statues in South Africa was not the answer.

“The answer lies in addressing the inequalities created by colonialism, by apartheid,” he said.