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Rhodes’ Trust a thorn in Zim’s cultural heritage

By Cont Mhlanga

It is that time of the year again that drives me nuts till mid-September when the secretary of the Rhodes scholarship in Zimbabwe continues to advertise for suitable candidates for the scholarship awards for only two Zimbabweans.

Cont Mhlanga
Cont Mhlanga

Two? If there are two things that have remained a thorn in Zimbabwean cultural heritage, it is Rhodes’s grave at the Matopos and Rhodes’s Trust at Rhodes House, University of Oxford in Britain.

These two deserve the country’s most urgent attention. What makes it worse is that it always coincides with the King Mzilikazi Umgubho Celebrations that come every September. Rhodes is the man who destroyed Mzilikazi’s long life work, vision and dream of creating Africa’s first non-tribal cosmopolitan state.

Rhodes’ legacy specified four standards by which applicants were to be judged: It is however, one that has always puzzled me each time I come across the image of Rhodes and any documentation of his Trust.

It reads; truth, courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindliness, unselfishness and fellowship.

Everything about the Rhodes scholarship from its administration to beneficiaries contradicts the above values of truth; sympathy for and protection of the weak; unselfishness and fellowship.

How do the current Trustees, the University of Oxford, investment beneficiaries, trustee employees and the scholarship recipients themselves justify the continuation with the present arrangements of a scholarship that was created out of lies, theft, courage to evict locals from their land with no compensation, looting their cattle, natural resources and minerals, perpetuating gross human rights violations in the process with no sympathy and failing to protect the local weak to create a heritage profit that they continue to selfishly enjoy?

Because this scholarship stole from black children from Africa to reward white children from the rest of the world forever and ever; then it’s fine. No one in the “civilised” world will speak against its injustices that it promotes to this day.

Only two awards for Zimbabwe where Rhodes’ bones lie on the nation’s religious Hill of Malindizimu at the centre of the nation’s most important spiritual shrines. Ahh Amakhiwa ayasijayela sibili. A world of racist thinkers is a funny and complex world to live in.

They want their own educated and “civilised” to own the best land and exploit the best natural resources by themselves for their own kind.

The same Rhodesians who displaced locals committing human rights violations that the late novelist Ndabezinhle Sigogo describes vividly in his Ndebele novel Umhlaba Umangele translates “Shocking Land Evictions”.

The same Rhodes who did not want to educate and develop locals are today running all over the world de-campaigning Zimbabwe just because it is them now on the losing end of the stick with the same land and natural resources that they themselves committed gross human rights violations when they forcibly removed the locals.

And guess what the white racist world is listening, and these are now human rights violations worth their support and attention. Yaaah yahh.

Just to show that educating an African was never the agenda of any white government in Rhodesia; teacher education is the corner stone of educating a nation but by 1951, 61 years after Rhodes occupied Mashonaland and three years later destroyed the Ndebele State, created his Rhodesia and installed himself as King Mlamulankunzi, looted land, cattle and minerals to create this particular scholarship, his countryman’s all white racist government was educating only 335 teachers a year all being trained by missionaries and not even the all white government and losing 220 of them to South Africa each year.

It was not until 1953 when Garfield Todd became Prime Minister that the first ever Five Year Education Plan for Africans by the all white government was put in place in this country and Todd’s Cabinet rebelled against him for putting an education plan for Africans.

Note that 1953 is only 27 years away from the country’s independence in 1980. For 78 years till 1980 the Rhodes Trust only gave scholarships to white Rhodesians. They are not willing to disclose how many black students they have given scholarships since 1980.

May be its only a Mutambara in 1991 who knows?

It is clear they did not care about the education of the black indigenous child and population just as the Rhodes Scholarship Trust today does not care about the education of the same child and population in this country.

For them two a year is cool returns for what Rhodes looted for all those years as king of this country. To them they inherited a clean international super dream prestigious scholarship fund that is not connected to any forms of human rights violations in its existence.

After all they have the protection of the British Parliament.

President Mugabe in his 32 years in power way less than Rhodes, has educated more local graduates with his presidential scholarship fund in Zimbabwe than Rhodes and his DeBeers in 110 years but a lot of those white graduates who were educated by Rhodes and his DeBeers’ human rights dirty money, some of whom became Prime Ministers in their countries want their “demon” Mugabe dead for what he has done for Zimbabwe and they have support from the British Parliament.

What is wrong with the British Parliament?

How many definitions do they have of gross human rights violations? Was Rhodes not Prime Minister of some country when he displaced the whole local population to create DeBeers and his Trust? Yes he was. Does that matter to anyone out there? By the look of things, certainly not!

The world that thinks in black and white is indeed a funny and complex place to live in. The Rhodes scholarship like the Zimbabwe stone bird is a Zimbabwean and African heritage and it must be brought back to Africa where its founder rests at the Matopos today.

This nonsense of keeping it in Britain to invest in the British companies while those in Bulawayo are dying and educate non-Africans who are born in super rich countries who can easily afford to educate their children must come to an end.

Our children get to keep the bones while their children get to keep the profits and the benefits! It’s time the Rhodes Trust and all its assets are listed as a national repatriation concern.

The logic of spending so much money on only two lucky people a year in a country where Rhodes the founder lies in a province that has all districts with no high school mathematics or science labs is stupid and silly and a mockery to Rhodes’s leadership development vision by those administering his legacy today, a legacy he stole from the very same districts.

How do the Trustees expect kids from these provinces to ever get a chance to Oxford or any other university to develop as leaders as in Rhodes’ will?

This too must change. It was fine back then when the University of Oxford was the only university in the English speaking world and white people were the only important people in the then world.

However, Africa has now got great Universities and all of Rhodes’ scholarship funds must be spent on the African continent on African scholars at African universities. To hell with spending it in Oxford and on students from rich continents who will never set their feet in Africa.

Rhodes made his money from African resources and no one knows this fact more than the University of Oxford itself. We are no longer living in the old world, so old selfish wills that perpetuate colonial legacy are over.

They should be changed by new Acts of Parliament to be in line with today’s world and its demands or as his will puts it; with sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindliness, unselfishness and fellowship.

Our children must never forget that 50 percent of DeBeers annual profits and its assets belong to the children of Zimbabwe.

Whoever inherited, bought or traded in stolen assets created on the foundation of human rights violations have become thieves and human rights violators themselves and justice must be applied accordingly no matter how long it takes where historical evidence exists.

It is documented that Rhodes’ company ruled Zimbabwe longer than King Lobengula and President Mugabe, and for that the heritage he created educates only two Zimbabweans a year. Ngumbhedo lo!

The African Union and Africa’s national governments should seriously pay attention to such social and economic injustices and negotiate for corrective measures with the responsible institutions and governments across the world.

What comes out of Africa should benefit Africa first. Period.

The Rhodes Trust is based at Rhodes House, Oxford England and was established in 1902 under the terms and conditions of the will of Cecil Rhodes, and by subsequent Acts of British Parliament.

It is an educational charity whose principal activity is to support scholars selected from the citizens of 14 specified geographic constituencies in order to study at the University of Oxford for a duration of one, two, or three years and have been awarded annually since 1902.

The Rhodes Trust consists of two registered charities, the Cecil Rhodes Trust Scholarship Fund and the Rhodes Trust Public Purposes Fund. It’s time this Rhodes thorn is swiftly removed from the Zimbabwean cultural flesh once and for all.

Cont Mdladla Mhlanga is a Zimbabwean playwright, actor and theatre director. He is also the founder and head of the Amakhosi Theatre Productions company.