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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter December 11, 2019

In South Africa, “Rhodes Must Fall” (while Rhodes’ Walls Rise)

  • Patrick Bond EMAIL logo
From the journal New Global Studies


The African borders established in Berlin in 1884–85, at the peak of Cecil John Rhodes’ South African ambitions, were functional to the main five colonial-imperial powers, but certainly not to African societies then, nor to future generations. The residues of Rhodes’ settler-colonial racism and extractive-oriented looting include major cities such as Johannesburg, which are witnessing worse inequality and desperation, even a quarter of a century after apartheid fell in 1994. In South Africa’s financial capital, Johannesburg, a combination of post-apartheid neoliberalism and regional subimperial hegemony amplified xenophobic tendencies to the boiling point in 2019. Not only could University of Cape Town students tear down the hated campus statue of Rhodes, but the vestiges of his ethnic divide-and-conquer power could be swept aside. Rhodes did “fall,” in March 2015, but the South African working class and opportunistic politicians took no notice of the symbolic act, and instead began to raise Rhodes’ border walls ever higher, through ever more violent xenophobic outbreaks. Ending the populist predilection towards xenophobia will require more fundamental changes to the inherited political economy, so that the deep structural reasons for xenophobia are ripped out as convincingly as were the studs holding down Rhodes’ Cape Town statue.


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Published Online: 2019-12-11
Published in Print: 2019-11-18

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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