Allister Sparks: Student Protests Not About the Past Only

The Journalist’s Publisher Setting the record straight

This letter from Zubeida Jaffer the Publisher of tem>The Journalist was published in Business Day as well as Die Volksblad. It refers to a column in Business Day that can be read alongside. We are reprinting the letter in the interests of vigorous public debate.

Dear Editor,

I have read with great interest the opinion piece in Business Day by veteran journalist and author Allister Sparks. (AT HOME AND ABROAD: Let us leave the past and focus on today’s failures).

Since he was out of the country for a few weeks, he must have missed the insightful piece by academic and writer Professor Njabulo Ndebele and his colleagues at the Nelson Mandela Rhodes Foundation. Professor Ndebele provides a contrary view in the article “Mandela and Rhodes: reconciling the irreconcilable?”, that first appeared at www.thejournalist.org.za.

Before leaving Bloemfontein this week, Professor Jonathan Jansen handed me a book entitled, The Cult of Rhodes. In this book, Dr Paul Maylam makes reference to the view of two South African writers, Sarah Gertrude Millin and Stuart Cloete, who both suggest that Rhodes shared similarities with Hitler.

Cloete depicted Rhodes as “the prototype of the modern dictator and said:

“Modern Fascism could indeed, be said to have begun with Cecil Rhodes. A book could be written, “From Rhodes to Hitler.” He was the first man to organise business politically, his diamond industry was the first great cartel. His was the dream of an elite, a secret society that ruled whole continents by money controlled by a single source. His hope was for a great British Reich.”

Is Mr Sparks suggesting that Rhodes is an example of the kind of entrepreneurial spirit that our students must emulate? He misses the point completely that the student protests are not about the past. It is about taking charge of their present in order to shape a different future.

Zubeida Jaffer

Writer-in-residence
University of the Free State.

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