Rhodes statue at Oxford may be next to fall

December 18, 2015, 4:20am

Students walk past a statue of British colonialist Cecil John Rhodes at the University of Cape Town near the city center of Cape Town, South Africa on 7 March 2015. (Schalk van Zuydam, AP)

Genevieve Quintal, News24

Johannesburg - Oriel College, a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England is considering removing its Cecil John Rhodes statue, it said on Thursday.

This was after it received a petition from the Rhodes Must Fall in Oxford movement, the college said in a statement.

It received the petition, which called for the removal of the statue from the college's High Street frontage, on November 6.

The petition stated that the statue violated the university's commitment to "fostering an inclusive culture which promotes equality, values diversity and maintains a working, learning and social environment in which the rights and dignity of all its staff and students are respected".

A statue of Rhodes was removed from the University of Cape Town earlier this year after students protested under the banner Rhodes Must Fall.

The Oxford movement was inspired by this.

The college said its governing body considered the petition submitted by the movement, as well as the wider issues it raised.

"The future of the statue raises complex issues, which cannot be resolved quickly," Oriel College said.

"Any changes to the building – including the addition of a permanent information board to explain the history and context, removal or replacement of the statue, or the commissioning of new works of art – would require planning consent."

It said the statue, and the building on which it stands, had been identified by Historic England as being of particular historical interest, in part precisely because of the controversy which surrounded Rhodes.

"In view of these complexities, the college has decided to launch a structured six-month listening exercise on the statue, running from early February 2016, seeking the views and ideas of students and staff of the College and the wider University, alumni, heritage bodies, Oxford City Council, residents of Oxford, and other members of the public, as we seek a positive way forward."

In the meantime, Oriel said it was starting the process of consulting the Oxford City Council ahead of submitting a formal application for consent to remove the Rhodes plaque on King Edward Street.