African Roots of Rhodes Scholarships

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By Jide Uwechia

The Rhodes Scholarship Foundation

For more than three centuries after European settlers arrived in South Africa in 1652, so-white rulers sought to relegate Africans to exist only as objects of economic exploitation and systematically undermined any system of education and schooling extant in the African communities.

Among these European miscreants was Cecil Rhodes, prime minister of England’s Cape Colony, now the country’s southwestern region. Cecil made a fortune off the back of Africans. He unlawfully appropriated African land, skills and labour and expropriated the resulting returns of his theft.

His motto was cynical crass inhumane exploitation of Africans.

“Nine-tenths of them will have to spend their lives in manual labor, and the sooner that is brought home to them, the better,” Rhodes said in 1893.

Black Reserve

1893, Rhodes established South Africa’s first exclusively black reserve in the eastern Glen Grey district. It was a racially segregated concentration camp, the first example of this kind in the world.

Families were allocated eight acres (3.2 hectares) of land that they were forbidden to sell and only eldest sons could inherit, stripping their relatives of assets, and destroying the centuries old economic independence of African women. The sexist implications of such policies still render Africa hoobled on its knees, since half of its former producers (i.e. African women) are bereft of any resources in this present times.

Local residents were forced to pay hut taxes and all males who didn’t find work outside the reserve within a year also had to pay a labor tax, a measure Rhodes said would serve as a “stimulus to these people to make them go on working.”

Cecil Rhodes ironically was against the education of black people. He believed that as little formal training as possible should be provided to Africans in the emerging modern economy. He sought the closure of missionary-run schools in the area, fearing that they could encourage the formation of a black intelligensia class that could turn into anti-government agitators.

Payment of those illegal and immoral taxes was enforced by physical mutilation, internal enslavement or imprisonment.

Pink-nosed (a term cherished by Robert Mugabe) Cecil Rhode’s will established Oxford University’s Rhodes Scholarships based on a fortune made exploiting black laborers in South Africa’s diamond mines. Rhodes scholarship is thus rooted firmly in the existential suffering, genocide, degradation and continuing economic exploitation of present day Africa.

Beneficiaries of the Rhode Scholarship are the so-called Rhodes Scholars, who figure prominently in the ranks of the elites of the western world.

Let those with eyes seeth. And for those who sleepeth, may their slumber do them some good also.

Jide Uwechia
March 22, 2009


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