SOS – Steve on Sunday

by Steve Lunderstedt

 

8 -13 June 2020

The week began with more Rumours about rumours about rumours.

This one rumour, or perhaps it is two, is about the alcohol and the nicotine bannings and unbannings in South Africa, and in particular Kimberley. Which is where I live hence the concentration on “what’s happening” in my little world where diamonds lie on the streets and in the gardens just waiting to be picked up…

Rumours are just that and sometimes I wonder how they get started. The latest is that cigarettes are about to be unbanned and it will be this week. Really? Some tell me that the price they paid today for illegal cigarettes is down to R40 a packet – sellers trying to get rid of stock? Normal price between R100 and R200 per packet. Others tell me that they are not buying these illegal cigarettes as the decent cigarettes are going to be available this week. Cannot comment and of course time shall tell whether this rumour is true.

The other one is that alcohol will once again be banned. Now this is a rumour that may well be true with certain politicians making daily statements about hospitals being inundated with alcohol related injuries, with crime on the up and up because of alcohol, the drunken driving, etc. These talking heads, some of them most powerful in the current set-up, I am sure are not talking just for the sake of talking. Actually, they may well be!

Perhaps I had better stampede down to my local off sales and purchase a few cases of everything. You know, just to be on the safe side even though I don’t really drink. It will be good merely to open my front door and smugly see the myriad cases of beer, spirits and wine just sitting there packed oh so nicely. Actually, joking aside, I had better go get a few bottles of brandy in case the rumour is true. Hate to have a toothache without brandy.

And then Cecil Rhodes shot back into the limelight as the late Collins Khosa (may he RIP) fell off the media satellite.

Oh my goodness but Oxford University’s Cecil Rhodes is in danger of falling once again. Not the real Rhodes of course, he fell in Muizenburg on 26 March 1902 and his body was taken by special train to what is now Zimbabwe and buried in the Matopos (Matobos) hills near Bulawayo.

Rhodes died at the age of 49 years and nine months and had, in his short life span, taken virtual control of the world’s diamond industry, built a reasonably major share in the gold industry, had colonised an area north of the Limpopo river, been a member of the Cape parliament from 1880 until his death, and was the Premier (Prime Minister) of the self-same colony from 1890 to 1896.

Like all of us, he had bad and good points. Some may point out that his bad points outweigh his good ones quite considerably. They may indeed. The bad points of course would always include the war and defeat of the Matabele nation in 1893, the Jameson Raid of 1896/97and the Anglo-Boer South African war of 1899-1902. There are some others, but there are good points too.

He had many friends, and he had just as many if not more enemies.

But I tell you what.

He was not a slave trader nor did he deal in slaves as several people have intimated quite loudly these last few days. Slavery had been finally done away with in the British Empire in 1833, thus finished with in southern Africa at the same time.

Rhodes was a businessman first, and then a politician.

Like many an extremely successful businessman, he got his own way most of the time. He had a brilliant mind, was a great orator, had a magnificent memory and was a visionary.

The point of this short piece on Cecil Rhodes is that no-one really knows his background, do they? That he worked his way up from absolutely nothing to what he eventually became. In other words, he was one of us mere mortals except he became successful.

Unlike many of today’s millionaires and billionaires in South Africa he was not just given the money and made a director of one or more companies and living happily evermore, he started his businesses, he made them work and he appointed the directors. Oh yes he did, google it if you can get past the politically led diatribes against him. One of the directors he appointed was Royal Naval Captain HM Penfold. He liked Penfold, Cape Town’s Harbour Master and could sit and drink and talk with him for hours. Penfold also taught Rhodes how to sail a small boat, and was appointed a De Beers Director. Marvellous! I never taught anyone how to sail so that is why I am a mere nobody playing tiddly winks in my old age home. Oops, sorry, retirement village.

In brief, Rhodes was born in Bishop’s Stortford village, England, in 1853, the 7th born of 11 children to the Reverend Francis Rhodes and his second wife Louisa. His paternal grandfather was a farmer.

So he was a member of Britain’s middle class, lower middle class, but still middle class. As the fifth boy child he would have been expected to have a career in the ministry, like his father before him. Or perhaps in a legal firm.

He was a sickly child and basically home-taught by his mother, and then his father. When he was well enough he would attend the local grammar school, the equivalent today of a South African government school. Nothing exciting except perhaps he loved cricket and played for the school 1st XI when feeling well which explains his support of cricket and indeed other sports later in his life.

At the age of 17 years, having been advised he would die soon should he remain in England, he left the wet climate and arrived in South Africa to join his brother Herbert who was farming at Umkomaas in what is now Kwazulu-Natal.

He stayed there for a time and then left for the diamond fields, in 1871 joining his brother Herbert on his diamond claims in what is now the famous Big Hole of Kimberley.

This is the point of this story.

Cecil Rhodes was a nobody, just one of many thousands of nobodies working hard in the claims. This continued for some years and eventually he could afford to go to Oxford University to study and he paid his own way. No bank or student loans for him unlike many others today. He paid his own way. At the same time as all this was happening he was wheeling and dealing in business ventures, many of which failed. Some were a great success – such as making and selling ice cream and ice cubes in the heat of Kimberley, and pumping under contract the water out of two of the five Kimberley open pits.

He worked hard. I do not think he played as hard as he worked but he rose from the bottom of the mining industry to get to the top of his chosen world of business.

Physical work too. Not just sitting around in meetings waiting for his monthly payout. He controlled his own destiny. Please do remember I am not writing about his foibles and bad points or how he may or may not have treated people on his way up the ladder. I am merely pointing out that he worked his way up from a nothing to a very important something in the world.

From a nobody to a somebody. Worked for his money. It was not given to him and it was not inherited. An absolutely amazing and meteoric rise from a sickly and poor teenager to a financial and economic success in a matter of 32 years to his death.

Just trying in a small way to clear some of the mud around Cecil Rhodes, a Kimberley teenager who did well, very well.

And then on Wednesday it got worse…

Here we go again, again…

I have been waiting for this, an announcement in Kimberley today about a “…a peaceful RhodesMustFall campaign through the reading of anti-colonial, anti-apartheid and anti-racism poetry… this coming Friday 12 June 2020 at the Rhodes Monument in Kimberley from 12h00 onwards…”

You are invited to join “…a collective of poets, writers, heritage and creative industry practitioners…”

Of course it shall be peaceful! There is no doubt about it.

It is also an illegal gathering.

No doubt about that either no matter what our sentiments and beliefs are, rightly or wrongly.

Important things to remember which of course the authorities are very aware of because they proclaimed them.

We, all of us in South Africa, are under lockdown under Level 3 which quite clearly states that “…all public gatherings are prohibited except for: • attending of funerals; • being in the workplace; • buying permitted goods and services; • faith-based institutions, which are limited to 50 persons or less, depending on the size of the place of worship and provided that all health protocols and social distancing measures are being adhered to; • an agricultural auction, subject to health and social distancing protocols; and • a professional non-contact sports match, which may only include players, match officials, journalists and medical and television crew, subject to directions from the Minister of Sport and Recreation.”

The current rules and regulations also state that you may only leave your home for certain reasons which do not include any gathering be it political or socio-economic.

Each and every person must also wear a mask and adhere to social distancing.

The law is extremely clear, this gathering is not permitted while we are in Lockdown and with the Chinese virus moving very rapidly in certain areas in South Africa, it is not good for the people in Kimberley to mix and quite possibly (probably) spread the virus.

I do expect the authorities, using the Lockdown regulations they have themselves gazetted, to act accordingly. For the sake of the health and well-being of the entire community.

So those planning in attending are in fact breaking the law – premeditated breaking of the law do I need to add?

The communique goes on to state that the Rhodes statue in Cape Town fell, the London statue of Rhodes fell, and the Rhodes statue in Oxford will fall.

It is a fact that the Cape Town statue “fell” but as far as I am aware, the London statue does not exist so cannot fall, while the Oxford statue of Rhodes may or may not “fall”.

Tourism world-wide has fallen.

In South Africa too and also in Kimberley, tourism is kaput. No matter what the talking heads may say or do, there is little doubt that foreign tourists will not be pouring into this country in the foreseeable future and little chance of them spending even more money on just getting to Kimberley.

While empathising with many of the points raised by the organisers of the proposed ‘peaceful meeting’, the removal of any statue, monument or memorial is detrimental to the history of Kimberley and therefore directly affects the tourism marketing for and about the city. The tourist wishes to see all there is to do with diamond and diamond related history.

If the Rhodes statue in Kimberley, the funds for its erection raised by the citizens of this town on land specifically donated for his statue by Alfred Beit, does actually fall, it will be major loss for the city as each and every tourist staying a night in the town does visit the statue. And hear the stories about Rhodes, good and bad. And about colonialism and apartheid.

And if the Rhodes statue does fall, then as a matter of principle there should of course be a succession of government buildings that must “fall”, because they too originate from colonialism, racism and apartheid.

These include:

The McGregor Museum. This museum was originally the Kimberley Sanatorium, built on the express orders of Cecil Rhodes.

The City Hall. Opened in 1899. Most of the funding came by way of the De Beers Company – read Rhodes.

The Duggan-Cronin Gallery. Originally ‘The Lodge’, the home of the Manager of the London and South African Exploration Company. The company owned at least half the land of Kimberley. Rhodes bought out the company in 1899.

There are many, many more. The list is long. Some I cannot mention because the law of the land states I cannot for security reasons.

I just wished to highlight a few that are currently used by the government.

And to point out that tourism needs these statues, monuments, memorials, and buildings. Without these attractions to promote Kimberley as a tourist destination we are doomed. Diamonds and diamond related history is what brings tourists to Kimberley.

 

The rest of the attractions – rock art, other museums, struggle history, battlefields, walking tours, game parks – while important, are very much clique markets and a sideline to the diamonds and diamond related history. They bring minimal visitors in comparison to diamond related issues. There are visitor statistics to prove this, naturally.

 

Perhaps, to end this lockdown day 76 blurb, I should mention how the economy works, aimed specifically at those employed by government, divisional, district and municipal departments and agencies or whatever you wish to call them.

There is no magical money tree.

Believe me. Believe the economists.

All monies used by government etc have been raised by taxes in one form or another. Taxes from the citizens of this country and this town pay the salaries of all employees of government and municipalities – including ministers, elected personnel, premiers, mayors, councillors, government and municipal staff, the police and the army, the public hospital staff, the roadworks, etc, etc. The list appears endless.

So if there is no money (taxes) coming in from private business which of course includes tourism, there will one day, and perhaps one day now now, be no money to pay the salaries. Of anyone.

And then I am sure there will be a lot of big and small trees falling…

Rhodes continued to be the theme of the week.

What a day! Nice in the sun and freezing indoors. Then the wind came up and suddenly the positions had reversed – freezing in the sun and warm indoors. At least the wind never followed me indoors.

I have reached a stage in my life, mainly because of infirmtiy and age, that what must be, must be. Whatever happens, happens. This is of course because of Cecil Rhodes’ statue in Kimberley that may or may not ‘fall’ tomorrow or in the near future. Naturally, as this gathering breaks the rules and regulations set out by the National Coronavirus Command Council, it will not be permitted by the authorities. This in order to contain the virus from China, the foreign invader nobody can see. I shall of course, be in the immediate vicinity of said statue to note what happens.

What must be, must be.

Someone suggested, or perhaps requested, that we ‘fight’ to keep the statue.

I do have to ask – how? And who? My age with accompanying illnesses both physical and mental, quite clearly suggest that actual fighting will not be very good for my health. In fact, one of the ICU beds in the commandeered hospitals may well be used quite quickly and the morgue shortly thereafter. So physically fighting is out of the question.

I can certainly fight with words, which is what I am doing, innit? Words can do good, and words can also hurt. Words have also been known to cause physical reaction by others to those who penned such words.

The conclusion I reached is that is it worthwhile, at the end of the day, to lose your life over a statue? The removal of a statue, or memorial, or building, will never, ever, ensure that the person whom it honours or favours, suddenly disappears from the history books and documentaries and internet. Please note here the important word “books”, because it is recorded history, the written word in whatever form, that remains for centuries and even millenia.

Many have tried over the hundreds of years to destroy books, to make them ‘fall’, but they have survived. Basically, if Rhodes’ statue ‘falls’ in Kimberley, which for the sake of all other monuments and statues in South Africa I hope does not happen, Rhodes will still be remembered in 200 years time, 500 years time and 1000 years time. For what he did, what he achieved, be it bad or good. Because he was one the big movers and shakers of southern Africa whether one likes it or not.

99% of today’s politicians will not be remembered in 50 years time, maybe not even in 10 years time. They who led the demonstrations will not even be mentioned and down the road even the demonstrations will possibly only warrant a sentence if that.

Many statues have ‘fallen’ before in history – archaeological digs throughout the world retrieve them from where they ‘fell’ from time to time. Nothing new here.

What I did today was to visit the Cecil Rhodes statue, take photographs from all angles and generally admire the work of the sculptor Hamo Thornycroft, uncle of Siegfried Sassoon. I wonder if the ‘intellectuals’ promoting the illegal meeting tomorrow have ever heard of them? Because nobody has ever heard of these so-called intellectuals.

What I also did was to check the THREE gates in the fence that surrounds the statue. Why three? Why not one? Anyway, only one was padlocked. Two gates had their padlocks removed in very recent times so were open which would of course lead to easy access to the statue.

What I did, just to make it a little harder to gain access, was to once again place padlocks on the two open gates. It will not stop anyone, but it will cause a slight hiccup in whatever plans there are.

The removal of statues, if this illegal gathering succeeds tomorrow, will not stop here in Kimberley. Every single statue that pre-dates 1990 will be in danger of ‘falling’ for whatever reason. There will be no culture left. Only agriculture, and based on all the farm murders, even that may fall.

And then the BIG day, Friday…

Now for the illegal gathering that I shall watch from afar should it be allowed by the authorities. Who in turn shall have broken the law brought in by the National Coronavirus Command Council should the illegal gathering be allowed.

It was dull, dark and cloudy today in Kimberley but with no rain. To be quite honest I froze, and my feet, warmly covered or so I thought, were blocks of ice. It was not a good day to be outdoors with the temperature only reaching a maximum of 10 degrees with the wind bringing it down to about five.

Other than spending an hour watching a genuinely peaceful (and illegal according to the Chinese virus rules and regulations) demonstration next to Rhodes’ statue I spent most of the day by my heater and in bed where it was warmer. So much for me writing more words per hour during winter!

I will not write anything more about Rhodes’ statue except to say it is still standing and that the demo was indeed peaceful. There were between 20 and 25 persons present at the illegal gathering.

Actually, one thing I shall write. I sat about 80 metres away from the statue, in the sun, and the vehicular traffic was busy, very busy, and all the drivers and passengers were (mostly) wearing masks and just going about their daily business.

And I thought, you know, all that people really want is a job, a roof over their head and a full tummy when they and their family go to bed at night.

Is that not what life is supposed to be about?

 

 

 

 

About the Author

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5 comments on “SOS – Steve on Sunday

  1. Enjoyed reading Steve’s article. Cearly much thought, and some humour, went into it. (It’s a White thing, bro!)

    Another admirable achievement of Rhodes was his peace settlement with the tribes in Rhodesia that ended the second native uprising of 1896. During this war he courageously went into the enemy territory to speak with the leaders completely unarmed, camped nearby in full view unarmed for a couple of days or so while they had their numerous ndabas about the matter, and he graciously ended the uprising by peaceful agreement on both sides ie neither side ‘won’ the war. It was settled amicably.

  2. Yes, my Wessels/Scholtz/De Beers relations were all there at the beginning of Kimberley. That is where my bones come from. And the other day I ran into the riots in the city and on the way out.

  3. Bravo to you Steve, for this model of measured good sense. And thanks to Hannes Wessels for enabling your opinions and musings to be posted on his very sensible and hard-hitting posts which I now recieve regularly. I salute you Steve, and you must know how highly the guys from Singapore ( Will Fyffe & Co ) spoke about you earlier this year when I had the pleasure of running them around Spion Kop/ Ladysmith/ Colenso et al. Are you doing guiding of any sort now ?
    I was on the facebook Church Site of Ian King who died last Monday, when all of a sudden the site switched me onto a site of yours with lots of memorable photos, including the one of us sitting under the de la Rey tree whilst en route to the site of Major Plumbe’s death. Lovely memories – thanks for those as well. And your site remembering all the people of Manicaland is superb ! (Please don’t forget my super young NS from 3RAR, Sgt Piet Nel who died on 16th June 1979 on Col McIlwaine’s farm. ) Nick and Soo Fawcett still look after his grave for me in the Umtali Cemetery.
    To just think of all those folks who were murdered in Manicaland during my tenure there, makes me very emotional. Thanks to your hard work I can now remember more and more of them.
    Big Salute to you Steve !

    Terry Leaver

  4. Thanks Steve,
    Rhodes is my Hero and I had a lifesize portrait of him by Kendrick in my home in Harare.
    I am an Activist for keeping him High Up in his niche at Oxford.

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