Statue row blots Mandela's post-apartheid vision for South Africa

Thu Apr 9, 2015 12:32pm EDT
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By Wendell Roelf

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South Africa's University of Cape Town removed a statue of British imperialist Cecil Rhodes on Thursday to cheers from students, a symbolic move that exposes persistent racial divides two decades after the end of apartheid.

The statue at the university, one of Africa's top academic institutions, has been covered up for the past few weeks as both white and black students regularly marched past with #Rhodesmustfall placards calling for its removal.

They believe it is a symbol of the racism against blacks that prevails in South Africa two decades after the end of oppressive white-minority rule.

Spattered with graffiti, it was hoisted by crane onto a truck from its tall granite plinth overlooking a rugby pitch as thousands of watching students cheered.

Some protesters climbed onto the truck to wrap tape around the face and place a bucket on the head.

"This represents a good step forward for transformation and it shows if something is wrong you really do have the power to change it," politics student Tinashe Sibeko, 18, told Reuters.

"For the black mentality in general it says that you don't just have to accept the status quo, you can transform and change things for the better," he added.

The demonstrations have triggered similar reactions elsewhere, with a statue outside parliament of Afrikaner Boer war hero and former prime minister of the Union of South Africa, Louis Botha, vandalized with paint.   Continued...

The statue of Cecil John Rhodes is bound by straps as it awaits removal from the University of Cape Town (UCT), April 9, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings