South African students applaud removal of British colonialist's statue

Cecil Rhodes: Statue removed, students applaud
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Cecil Rhodes: Statue removed, students applaud 02:57

Story highlights

  • Cape Town students demand Cecil Rhodes' statue come down
  • They use the hashtag #RhodesMustFall
  • School takes it down

(CNN)A South African university is celebrating the removal of a British colonialist's statue after weeks of protests.

University of Cape Town students took to social media to demand Cecil Rhodes' statue come down, saying his legacy is tainted with racism.
    Using the hashtag #RhodesMustFall, students expressed their views in a campaign that started last month.
    Four weeks later, the hashtag is now #RhodesHas Fallen. The university said Wednesday the heritage authority granted it permission to remove the statue from the campus.
    "These steps are being taken to ensure the safety of the statue while matters concerning its future are resolved," the university said in a statement.

    Decades later

    Rhodes' statue was first unveiled in 1934 at the university, which also has a scholarship and memorial in his name.
    #RhodesMustFall gained attention after activists threw excrement on the statue in March.
    "He represents the former colonial representation of this country -- supremacy, racism, misogyny," says Ramabina Mahapa, president of the students' Representative Council, which led the fight to remove the statue.
    "Students are saying these aren't the ideals that we want to have here," Mahapa says. "The statue represents what is wrong with society."

    Group: Stop erasing history

    But in Pretoria, another group of protesters disagreed.
    "This isn't confronting history, this is erasing it," says Steve Hofmeyr, a singer who participated in a campaign Thursday that involved activists chaining themselves to the Paul Kruger statue in response to #RhodesHasFallen.
    Days earlier, Kruger's statue was pelted with green paint. The Afrikaner is known for his opposition to the British.
    Afrikaner groups also chained themselves to the statue of Dutch colonizer Jan van Riebeeck in Cape Town.
    "I don't want fewer monuments," Hofmeyr says. "I want more monuments erected. But don't defile the ones that exist -- we are the sum total of all the history, not just the fun parts."
    Mahapa said removing a statue shouldn't be equated with removing history.
    "People down the years will be looking at the statue and at his history and what he did," Mahapa says. "We need to be moving toward becoming an Afrocentric university where African thought can be appreciated."
    Hofmeyr said the statue is a race issue.
    "There are huge gaping differences between people in South Africa and that is why you need dialogue, which you can't have without its monuments and statues," he says.
    Students marked the removal of Rhodes' statue with a celebratory march. They held signs that said "we're not done yet."
    With the statue removed, some asked what's next for the movement.