The Mandela Rhodes Foundation provide their view on a way forward

Lessons from Nelson Mandela on reconciliation, reparation, and the path to prosperity.

After the recent peaceful protest organised by Rhodes Must Fall saw over one thousand people attend at Oriel College in Oxford to demand the removal of the Cecil Rhodes statue, Gi Media reached out to The Mandela Rhodes Foundation in to try and understand their views on Cecil Rhodes.

In a Statement provided to Gi Media, the Mandela Rhodes Foundation first clarified that they were a separate entity to both Oriel College and the Rhodes Trust (which administers the Rhodes Scholarship in Oxford), therefore, any decisions made by Oriel College would have no bearing on their work.*

The Mandela Rhodes Foundation, a leadership development programme for Africa, was established in 2003 by agreement between Mr Nelson Mandela and the Rhodes Trust.

The Foundation further explains:

“Our purpose is to build exceptional leadership in Africa in the belief that this will substantively contribute to a better life for African people. The resurgent #blacklivesmatter and #rhodesmustfall protests are interconnected struggles against un-redressed legacies of slavery and colonialism, affecting Africans and black people worldwide. “

In the statement, the Foundation also outline the true message they believe exists within the Mandela Rhodes Partnership.

“When Nelson Mandela agreed to co-found the Foundation with the Rhodes Trust in 2003, he was fully conscious of the tension between his own life and legacy and that of Rhodes. He neither sought to sanitise Rhodes’ image nor redeem him through juxtaposing their names. To use the partnership to justify the continued display of colonial symbols is to fundamentally misunderstand it.”

The Foundation believe that the partnership actually provides an opportunity for people to join together across historical divides, to heal the wounds of the past and to build a future that appreciates diversity, and is built on true systemic inclusion.

They believe that Mandela’s message is not to forgive, forget and accept the status quo, rather it is to work together to strive for social justice.  The Mandela Rhodes partnership believe that they demonstrate Mandela’s vision of reconciliation and redress as inseparable, saying that it is “not enough to apologise without taking responsibility for creating a more just society.”

The Way Forward

In their statement, the Mandela Rhodes Foundation outline their thoughts on a way forward.

“Done individually and collectively, this reckoning lays the foundation and creates the necessary buy-in for a shared mutually beneficial outcome. Transitioning from an oppressive order to a new order must involve shifts in the balance of economic and social – not only political – power. The alternative is window-dressing, in which the balance of power remains the same, and it is this balance of power which is being questioned by the #blacklivesmatter and #rhodesmustfall protests. Those with too much will need to be willing to concede some of it if they want to see a fairer world and truly move on from the past: this is the case in South Africa, in America, the UK and the world over.”

The Foundation believe that leaders should bring together all parties across the complexity of these issues and made difficult trade offs – ensuring that reconciliation and reparation always work hand in hand.

They conclude,

“We see our name as a constant call to actively engage with the legacies of the past, while we invest in the next generation of leaders who want to use their education, skills and passions to fundamentally shift the lives of African people towards true dignity, prosperity, and joy.”

Photo by John-Paul Henry on Unsplash

*Gi Media have reached out to the Rhodes Trust to gain their feedback about any issues surrounding the possible removal of the Cecil Rhodes statue and the scholarship provided by The Rhodes Trust.

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