A war of words is raging between Africans and whites in South Africa, about the statue of Cecil John Rhodes at the University of Cape Town. It is surprising that it is only now that many Africans are beginning to be enlightened about Rhodes’ egregious role on the continent and that this was basically a man totally devoid of scruples. It is indeed strange that the dark side of Rhodes is only emerging now when, in his book titled Montshiwa 1815 – 1896 (published in 1966), Dr. Silas Modiri Molema had written quite a bit about this unscrupulous man.

It was not so long ago that Africans became familiar with the modus operandi of secret societies. Be that as it may, before the African people’s knowledge of the West’s secret societies became so extensive, Africans should have fallen back on Dr. Molema’s book to reach the decision to question the sanity of having the statue of Rhodes at the University of Cape Town or anywhere else in this country or the continent for that matter.

In Chapter ten of his book Dr Molema writes, inter alia, that Europeans clamoured for the annexation of their properties to European states even when they were theoretically under the jurisdiction of African chiefs (Kings) and some drove a lucrative trade in land robbery. Dr Molema continued to write that, “Many European adventurers and men of questionable instincts from the Diamond Fields spread themselves over the country, and swept the Africans and Griquas from their lands by shady land transactions”. Dr Molema mentioned the age long resentment against Dutch-Afrikaners and irritation against the British government for its wholesale and undifferentiated annexation of Griqualnd West and the South African Republic “which brought about this confused state of affairs”. The phrase ‘men of questionable instincts’ include Rhodes.

To buttress the points raised by Dr Molema, let me quote Professor Carrol Quigley in a chapter titled The Anglo-American Establishment published in 1981 in which he wrote: “This organization (the Rhodes secret society known as the Milner Group after 1901) has been able to conceal its existence quite successfully, and many of its most influential members, satisfied to possess the reality rather than the appearance of power, are unknown even to close students of British history. This is the more surprising when we learn that one of the chief methods by which this Group works has been through propaganda. It plotted the Jameson Raid of 1895; it caused the Boer War of 1899-1902; it set up and controls the Rhodes Trust; it created the Union of South Africa in 1906-1910; it established the south African periodical The State in 1908; it founded the British Empire periodical The Round Table in 1910, and this remains the mouthpiece of the Group; it has been the most powerful single influence in All Souls, Balliol, and New Colleges at Oxford for more than a generation; it has controlled The Times for more than fifty years, with the exception of the three years 1919-1922; it publicized the idea of and the name “British Commonwealth of Nations” in the period 1908-1918; it was the chief influence in Lloyd George’s war administration in 1917-1919 and dominated the British delegation to the Peace Conference of 1919; it had a great deal to do with the formation and management of the League of Nations and of the system of mandates; it founded the Royal Institute of International Affairs in 1919 and still controls it; it was one of the chief influences on British policy toward Ireland, Palestine, and India in the period 1917-1945; it was a very important influence on the policy of appeasement of Germany during the years 1920-1940; and it controlled and still controls, to a very considerable extent, the sources and the writing of the history of British Imperial and foreign policy since the Boer War.”

Given what Dr. Molema and Professor Quigley revealed about Cecil John Rhodes, why should an institution of learning such as the University of Cape Town fight to keep a statue of such a character? The statue of the likes of Paul Kruger should also not be anywhere in this country because in their fight for our land with Rhodes, Thomas Upington, Hercules Robinson et al they undermined the African people. And why should we still have towns named after Upington and a railway station near Randfontein, named after Robinson? When is anything going to be named after Kgosi/King Montshiwa who fought against the British and the Dutch? In his idle and wildest dreams Northwest Premier Supra Mahumapelo wants to name that province after Moses Kotane. Why not name it after Kgosi Montshiwa?

Professor Quigley exposed the intention of Rhodes and Milner when he states that: “When [Alfred] Milner went to South Africa in 1897, Rhodes and he were already old acquaintances of many years’ standing… they were contemporaries at oxford, but, more than that, they were members of a secret society which had been founded in 1891. Moreover, Milner was, if not in 1897, at least by 1901, Rhodes’s chosen successor in the leadership of that society.”

The secret society of Cecil Rhodes is mentioned in the first five of his seven wills. In the fifth it was supplemented by the idea of an educational institution with scholarships, whose alumni would be bound together by common ideals…Rhodes’s ideals. In the sixth and seventh wills the secret society was not mentioned, and the scholarships monopolized the estate. But Rhodes still had the same ideals and still believed that they could be carried out best by a secret society of men devoted to a common cause. The scholarships were merely a facade to conceal the secret society, or, more accurately, they were to be one of the instruments by which the members of the secret society could carry out his purpose. This purpose, as expressed in the first will (1877), was “The extension of British rule throughout the world, the perfecting of a system of emigration from the United Kingdom and of colonization by British subjects of all lands wherein the means of livelihood are attainable by energy, labour, and enterprise, . . . the ultimate recovery of the United States of America as an integral part of a British Empire, the consolidation of the whole Empire, the inauguration of a system of Colonial Representation in the Imperial Parliament which may tend to weld together the disjointed members of the Empire, and finally the foundation of so great a power as to hereafter render wars impossible and promote the best interests of humanity.”

One wonders why Nelson Mandela embraced and endorsed a scholarship of this nature. People should not be fooled by lofty-sounding ideals such as “to hereafter render wars impossible and promote the best interests of humanity”. It is a contradiction in terms to “perfect colonization” and at the same time “render wars impossible and promote the best interests of humanity” since it is inevitable that a colonized people would rise against such a system as they have throughout the world because colonialism is an oppressive and exploitative system. As Aime’ Cesaire once said, “no one colonises innocently” and as Dr Cheikh Anta Diop correctly pointed out, the state is an instrument of coercion. The usurpation of state power is therefore a sign of ominous intentions. He further said that the building of Africa must be based on freedom of choice. Only what is built on the basis of freedom is durable. What is oppressive ultimately leads to opposition. We know that colonialism is not based on freedom of choice, so is apartheid. Colonialism is oppressive and it was and has bred opposition, unless of course Cecil John Rhodes was condescendingly suggesting that he was going to render war against colonialism impossible. Colonialism was not only physically oppressive but was also mentally enslaving. It also dislocated African communities by drawing artificial borders that to this day lead to conflicts. Unfortunately, some African leaders consider these artificial delimitations as sacred.

It is clear that the wisdom and erudition of people such as Dr. Molema, even though it is neglected by the powers that be as if he has never been a member of the ANC, is invaluable. People such as Dr. Molema have bequeathed to us an immeasurable legacy which, like that of Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe, is never referred to by the ruling party when they talk about South Africa’s heritage. We can ignore these legacies at our own peril.

By Sam Ditshego