THE statue of Cecil John Rhodes which was removed from Bulawayo’s city centre after independence and erected outside the Natural History Museum, and all other colonial monuments in Zimbabwe must remain in the public eye until the country reclaims resources that were plundered by the thieving imperialist, a local lobbyist has said.
By removing colonial monuments and exhuming his remains from Matopos, Mr Cont Mhlanga — who has been leading a lobby against the Rhodes Trust — said, Zimbabweans would be aiding the cause of the Rhodes Trust and multinationals that were established by Rhodes using resources that were plundered in Zimbabwe.
Mr Mhlanga’s Amakhosi Trust and like-minded organisations which include the Matabeleland Research Bureau have been working on a detailed research which proves that Rhodes, through his British South Africa Company (BSAC), looted and plundered Zimbabwe and in 1888 invested the proceeds in Kimberley and many other mines in South Africa through his trust, with production placed in the hands of De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd.
It is profits from De Beers that fund what the Rhodes Trust has declared “the oldest and perhaps the most prestigious international scholarship programme in the world”, which ironically, benefits mainly white students from developed countries like the US and hardly any black students from Zimbabwe. The US gets as many as 32 beneficiaries from a total of about 80 scholarships awarded annually, while Zimbabwe usually gets two a year.
And now with the spotlight on Rhodes’ grave at Matopos just 30km outside Bulawayo, and other colonial monuments in the country following the removal of Rhodes’ statue from South Africa’s University of Cape Town after it had become the focus of protests, Mr Mhlanga has warned against the removal of symbols which are a painful but just reminder of the work that is yet to be done.
“The Rhodes Foundation has been operating under the radar. No one should know what they are doing, which is questionable and immoral. We are helping the foundation by hiding Rhodes from the public eye.
“In the years to come children will forget about him. But if his symbols remain, our children will ask pertinent questions. In fact, we should take every colonial symbol and put it in public. Bulawayo is Rhodes’ financial capital, so his statue must be brought back to the public so that it can be scrutinised.
He destroyed a whole kingdom in order to loot Zimbabwe, created his own country and borders to plunder, and went on to build his economic empire in South Africa,” Mr Mhlanga explained.
Research done by the Matabeleland Research Bureau reveals that a gang of British looters led by Rhodes stole no less than 500 000 cattle in Matabeleland South alone, for sale at Kimberley. The settlers also charged locals Hut Tax and went on to invade all gold mines and grain reserves, much to the disgust of Queen Victoria, who warned that Zimbabweans would one day demand their heritage.
“The natives are probably in law and equity the real owners of the land which the settlers occupy. The proposed tax amounted to a charge for the occupation of their land and that would arouse great antagonism on the natives of Lobengula,” wrote the queen’s government to Rhodes before he proclaimed the Hut Tax.
“This country had enough grain reserves for six years,” Mr Mhlanga charged. “Rhodes took all the grain to Kimberly and Gold Fields. He also looted, according to records, over a million cattle. That is why he chose to be buried here, he knew where his wealth came from.
“His trust uses about 300 million pounds a year on education alone and it educates people from all over the world except here where he made his wealth; here where he chose to be buried.”
Mr Mhlanga went on: “There are many problems affecting our education sector. We do not have enough labs for science or even teachers. The Rhodes Trust must plough back where Rhodes looted.
“The beneficiaries of his scholarships also have no shame. They are not even bothered by the fact that they were educated through the proceeds of plunder. They can’t even offer their time to share their knowledge by teaching here for a while.”
Gold Fields Limited is a South African gold mining firm, one of the world’s largest, which is listed on both the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange. At its inception in the late 1800s, the company’s headquarters were in Bulawayo and the building, Eesons, still stands next to the National Gallery in Bulawayo.
Eesons Building stands between the gallery and the building which housed the first bank to be established by Rhodes, African Banking Corporation, which also still stands to this day.
Opposite the three buildings is Exchange Building, which housed the first ever stock exchange. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe building in Bulawayo still stands strategically behind the gallery and Eesons.
Although Rhodes had an office in Eesons which also had a processing plant for gold, his main office was located where the OK supermarket along Jason Moyo Street now stands.
The Exchange Building still houses Exchange Bar to this day. This is where the imperialists would wind up after a day’s work at either Gold Fields or the Stock Exchange. The bar is believed to be the oldest running business in Zimbabwe. A picture of King Lobengula’s wives and many others which were taken after the fall of the Ndebele State for the amusement of the settlers still hang on the walls of Exchange Bar.
A number of other colonial buildings still stand in Bulawayo.