Joshua Nott: Rhodes Must Fall activist wins Rhodes scholarship

Some Oxford students joined marches calling for the Oriel College statue's removal
Some Oxford students joined marches calling for the Oriel College statue’s removal

A South African activist who campaigned to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes has been given a place at Oxford – as a Rhodes scholar.

Joshua Nott, 23, has been branded a hypocrite on social media for accepting the £40,000 ($49,925) scholarship.

Mr Nott was a key figure in the Rhodes Must Fall movement at the University of Cape Town.

The campaigners called the British mining magnate a backward-looking symbol of racist colonialism.

Following a Twitter outcry in Spring 2015, they succeeded in their bid to have the Cape Town statue removed.

 Students at Oxford University then mounted an unsuccessful campaign to remove a Rhodes statue at Oriel College, where the businessman was educated.

Oriel resisted the pressure after a consultation showed “overwhelming” support for keeping it.

Mr Nott, who compared the Cape Town statue to “a swastika in Jerusalem”, will now receive tens of thousands from Rhodes’ legacy

Twitter disgust

The activist, who is the son of a wealthy South African lawyer, has been widely condemned on social media and accused of selling out.

While some branded him an “arrogant hypocrite”, others questioned whether poorer South Africans might not be more deserving of a £40,000 scholarship.

But Mr Nott has said he will “never toast Cecil John Rhodes” and will use the opportunity to fight against the ideals that Rhodes represented.

He does not plan to participate in the anti-Rhodes movement while at Oxford.

The Rhodes Trust has defended its choice of candidate, praising Mr Nott’s commitment to social justice.

A spokesman said: “We pick young people of enormous ability without regard to any particular political affiliation … Mr Nott has been involved in a wide range of social change initiatives. He made this clear.”

Controversial figure

Rhodes was a revered figure in the days of the British Empire, but some now view him as an imperialist who profited from South Africa’s resources at the expense of the local people.

He believed that the English were naturally superior, and was once quoted as saying: “I contend that we are the first race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit, the better it is for the human race.”

His sizeable trust was established at Oxford over a century ago to fund postgraduate awards for non-British students.

Famous predecessors

Previous Rhodes scholars include former US President Bill Clinton, former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, the astronomer Edwin Hubble, and country singer Kris Kristofferson.

Almost 8,000 Rhodes scholars have graduated from Oxford since the scheme was established in 1902.


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