Rhodes Must Fall activist accepts £40,000 Rhodes scholarship to study at Oxford University

An active member of the Rhodes Must Fall campaign at Cape Town University, Joshua Nott once likened the Cecil Rhodes statue to a 'swastika in Jerusalem'

The Rhodes Must Fall campaign started with the removal of a Cecil Rhodes statue in South Africa last year
The Rhodes Must Fall campaign started with the removal of a Cecil Rhodes statue in South Africa last year

A student activist involved in the campaign to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes from the University of Oxford has accepted a £40,000 Rhodes scholarship to study there.

South African student Joshua Nott, 23, was part of a sister-campaign at Cape Town University, where activists attempted to tear down another statue of Cecil Rhodes on the grounds it symbolised racism and colonialism.

However, the privately educated student, who said that the figure statue was akin to “swastika in Jerusalem”, will soon become a Rhodes scholar after receiving a substantial bursary to enrol in a postgraduate law course at Oxford University.

Although Mr Nott remains outspoken over the statue, he has confirmed that he will not join or help reignite the movement at Oriel College when he arrives next term.

Now listed on the Rhodes Trust website as one of this year’s scholars, Mr Nott’s biography does not specifically mention his involvement with the protest demonstrations, but says he “pioneered a number of workers’ rights and student focused initiatives.”

Defending its decision to award him a scholarship, a spokesman for the Rhodes Trust 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.”

Last year, another anti-Rhodes activist Ntokozo Qwabe was awarded the scholarship, prompting a petition signed by more than 47,000 people for his award to be revoked.

Members of the Rhodes Most Fall campaign in both the UK and abroad have branded Mr Nott a hypocrite for accepting the scholarship.

Defending his decision online, the student said: “I use the Rhodes scholarship to defeat the very ideals of what it originally stood for.

“When the Rhodes Must Fall campaign began it was less about the statue and more about student transformation at Cape Town University.”

He said the campaign had become about “burning bridges instead of building them” and that the conversation had become “very unintelligent”.

“I think protests should not be degraded to that level. But you can only get your voice heard if you engage in extreme or violent protests.”

Mr Nott has also dismissed suggestions that his family’s wealth should disqualify him from being awarded the scholarship – a scheme which was written into Cecil Rhodes’s will and designed to facilitate social mobility among South Africans.

“If an underprivileged person could effect as much change I would easily renounce it but I firmly believe in myself as someone who can effect immense macro change,” he added.

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