Letters: Why fight Rhodes when Mugabe is alive?

The following letters appear in the 26th December edition of the Independent

Independent Voices@IndyVoices
Friday 25 December 2015 15:11
The debate over Cecil Rhodes' legacy continues at Oxford - and among the Independent's readers.
The debate over Cecil Rhodes' legacy continues at Oxford - and among the Independent's readers.

In your 24 December report on the Rhodes Must Fall campaign in Oxford you quote Brian Kwoba, one of the organisers: “Cecil Rhodes is responsible for stealing land, massacring tens of thousands of black Africans, imposing a regime of unspeakable labour exploitation in the diamond mines and devising pro-apartheid policies.

“The significance of taking down the statue is simple: Cecil Rhodes is the Hitler of southern Africa. Would anyone countenance a statue to Hitler?”

As a graduate of Rhodes University in South Africa, a political prisoner in Pretoria and Johannesburg (1964-67) and a former journalist banned from being quoted there for over 20 years, I would have thought a doctoral student who can state that Cecil Rhodes is “the Hitler” of southern Africa puts in question the intellectual rigour of his Oxford college.

Rhodes died 113 years ago. Robert Mugabe is still alive. His regime has conclusively been found responsible for “massacring tens of thousands of black Africans” in the 1980s in the genocidal Gukurahundi campaign against the Ndebele people in Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia). This crime against the African people remains unaddressed.

Would Mr Kwoba not show more integrity if his energies were directed against a living horror, not a historical statue?

Paul Trewhela
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

Is the world such a near-perfect place that a priority for some students at Oxford is the removal of a historical statue?

I recall as a student at school and university being exercised by the injustices of apartheid in South Africa and the war in Vietnam.

You are surely right, in your editorial of 24 December, to make the link with the wider call for “safe spaces”, “trigger warnings” and the like. Is this one consequence of a generation of young people infantilised by being brought up largely in their bedrooms?

Brian G Mitchell

The student group calling for the removal of the statue of Cecil Rhodes from Oriel College, Oxford, are not simply trying to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted. The statue symbolises for them a persistent culture within the University of ethnocentrism and racism.

Oriel College is to be congratulated on beginning a “listening process” on this issue, but given the amount of experiential and anecdotal evidence for a culture of bullying and racism within the University, isn’t it time an extensive survey were undertaken?

Daniel Emlyn-Jones

Dawn Foster (Voices, 23 December) should listen to Nelson Mandela, who once said, of another memorial to Cecil Rhodes: “Memorials like these must remain because we need to see history in the round.

“People must remember what was thought to be good at the time, even if later we take a very different view. Only then can we learn lessons by taking the mistakes with us as a reminder.”

Joanna Ellis Jones
London SW4

Oriel’s Cecil Rhodes statue should indeed be replaced, if only on aesthetic grounds. It should be replaced by a statue of Edward II, in whose reign Oriel was founded.

This would gratify anti-racists and homosexuals alike.

Richard Humble (Oriel, 1963-66)

The more religion, the more crime

Dominic Kirkham (letter, 22 December) appears to believe that Christianity is a civilising force.

It is not. If you consider the falling rate of crime and murder in the US (yes, it is really happening) then you will see that the graph of church attendance in the US is falling at roughly the same angle as the rate of murders.

There is a correlation between religion and crime: the more religious a country, the more crime. The exception to this rule is Saudi Arabia which has a low crime rate because the criminals are in charge.

In a civilised country people who flog girls are punished; in Saudi Arabia they run the place. I witnessed the injuries to a young man when I was working there.

He had visited the gold souk to buy a birthday present for his mother. The religious police claimed he was up to no good and beat him severely. That was not a crime in crime-free Saudi Arabia.

The percentage among prison populations who are religious is higher than the percentage of religious people in the general population. The vast majority of senior scientists and academics are atheists.

It is time for people to realise that brainwashing children with religious twaddle does not make them better people. It, in fact, has the reverse effect.

John King

As he gives the orders to bomb women and children in Syria, and forces British terminally ill people into “fit for work tests” in order to rob them of the state benefits they are entitled to, David Cameron in his Christmas message to the nation urges us all to “reflect on our Christian values”?

What an insult to God and the teachings of Christ!

Louise McArdle
North Lanarkshire

Cuts will mean more homeless

As your article “Homeless families at highest number since financial crisis began” (22 December) rightly points out, the official homelessness figures account for the numbers of people who are “statutorily homeless” and, by definition, excludes the majority of the single homeless – adults without dependants.

Local authorities are facing a sixth year of cuts, and the next round will make the situation significantly worse for these vulnerable people. Hostels and community support currently funded by councils will be at risk of cuts and/or closure.

Homelessness in London has already increased by 38 per cent in the last five years. If more cuts are made to vital services, the numbers forced to sleep rough will continue to rise and the evictions of vulnerable tenants currently in secure housing will increase. This will inevitably escalate demand for more expensive public services.

These cuts are both inhumane and ultimately a false economy.

Liz Rutherfoord
Chief Executive, Single Homeless Project

London WC1

Lawyer needed at the police station

Please tell me that Bijan Ebrahimi was informed of his right to legal representation when he arrived at the police station (“Man killed by lynch mob pleaded with police for help”, 22 December).

One way to protect such individuals would be to say that disabled persons should automatically be represented at the police station by a properly qualified criminal solicitor. That is, if there are any left.

Not only would that solicitor have been able to stop that treatment of him by the police but Mr Ebrahimi would have had someone on his side to contact on that terrible day and that solicitor might have been able to get through to the authorities and possibly prevent the death.

Alison Griffiths
Kingsbridge, Devon

Drug for HIV - and a lot more

You use an emotive headline in your article (18 December) about “the man who made a killing out of HIV patients”.

Yes, the drug, pyrimethamine, is used for treating HIV patients. But it is used, and has been since 1953, for treating malaria and protozoan infections, (usually in conjunction with another drug) well before its use for HIV. You might as well describe any common antibiotic as being a drug for HIV.

This does not mean that I approve of Martin Shkreli charging outrageous sums for the drug (the NHS price a year ago was £13 for 30 tablets). But also at fault are national health organisations and the World Health Organisation which have failed to fund manufacture of off-patent, low-value drugs used in specialist cases.

Dr John French
London SE21

Go for a coffee after church

Mark Thomas (letter, 22 December) quotes me when he compares the ubiquity of the Church of England with that of Starbucks. My nearest Starbucks is 10 miles away. If I wish to visit it, I pass through six Anglican parishes on the way, to say nothing of at least 14 other parishes within a 10-mile radius of that establishment. My case rests.

John Williams
West Wittering, West Sussex

Flooding somewhere in the North

Nice picture of York on today’s front page (24 December) but you should know that the Ouse floods like this every year. Very few properties are affected and certainly none in the city centre. You’ve misreported this previously! Cumbria is where the problem is, but perhaps that’s too far north for you southerners.

Anthony Day

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