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Cecil Rhodes statues have been has been the centre of controversy for several years and recently activists have drawn up ‘hit lists’ to tear down in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests. Last month Oxford University backed removing a statue of the Victorian imperialist and former graduate after a number of protests had taken place. But it appears activists in South Africa have taken matters into their own hands, by decapitating a large memorial of the Briton.
Rhodes was a 19th century magnate and politician who founded the De Beers diamond company and gave his name to Northern and Southern Rhodesia – now Zambia and Zimbabwe.
He served as prime minister of Cape Colony – which today makes up South African, Namibia and Lesotho, from 1890 to 1896.
But many have called for statues of him to be removed, saying it is a symbol of imperialism and racism.
This is because Mr Rhodes believed in the supremacy of the Anglo-Saxon race and served as an early architect of apartheid.
Campaigners also claim the colonialist made his fortune by exploiting black miners while promoting racial segregation and financing colonial wars.
This weekend activists damaged a statue of the imperialist, which is located on Cape Town’s Table Mountain.
Nobody has yet taken responsibility for the attack.
Park rangers said the large statue, which is located at the top of a flight of steps at the Rhodes Memorial, was damaged.
Lauren Clayton, a spokeswoman for South African National Parks in the Western Cape, said rangers patrolling Table Mountain discovered the disfigured bust on Monday.
She said the incident likely occurred on Sunday night or Monday morning.
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Ms Clayton said: “It has been vandalised before, multiple times…
“At this stage we are still unclear about the reasoning behind the vandalism.”
The large memorial of Mr Rhodes, who made his fortune in South African diamond mining, consists of huge granite steps, flanked by bronze lions.
At the beginning of the steps a rider is seen on top of a bronze horse, which leads to the top where the Britons bust is situated.
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Beneath his statue, an inscription reads: “The immense and brooding spirit still shall quicken and control living.
“He was the land and dead his soul shall be her soul.”
Mr Rhodes has been at the centre of anti-colonial anger since students forced the University of Cape Town to remove his statue from its campus in 2015.
The move prompted students at Oxford University to demand the removal of his statue outside Oriel College, but until recently officials have resisted.
However, in the wake of recent Black Lives Matter protests which saw the toppling of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol, Oriel College officials voted in favour of removing the statue.
Officials agreed to set up an independent inquiry into the key issues surrounding it, but warned the removal is not expected to be immediate.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he is opposed to removing the colonialist’s statue.
He said: “I’m pro-heritage, I’m pro-history, and I’m in favour of people understanding our past with all its imperfections.”
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