Rhodes must fall. And it’s important for us all. A restorative justice view

My humanity is inextricably linked to yours.

It’s not enough that I concern myself with my own well-being and disregard the fact that you are not flourishing. Ultimately, if my brothers and sisters do not flourish, I pay a price, my kids pay a price, we all pay a price. We are all paying a price.

So what’s so important about Rhodes? He’s just some dumb-ass from an era of old. No?

I asked a friend of mine who does volunteer work for Access to Justice in Cape Town, just to help me with some of the history. For me, taking down monuments to oppression is a no-brainer. A monument or a statue denotes honour. We injure our own souls if we fail to see the importance of interrupting the enduring positions of honour of abusers. So Greshen Chetty helped me unpack the history as I refer to below:

Rhodes is said to have stood at the foot of Table Mountain and made a powerful declaration over Africa that he would dominate from Cape to Cairo. Words are very powerful. The old adage that sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never harm could not be further from the truth. Words have creative power, the power to heal, the power to denigrate. And it is exceptionally important that we take countervailing action to dismantle the legacy of his words. Why?

Rhodes brought with him an agenda. This agenda was steeped in the vision of freemasonry and along with it, the interests of the crown. The outworking of all of this was the enrichment of the few at the expense of the many. Within the narrative of the colonial era, the many were the native inhabitants of colonized lands. The modus operandi was to exploit the resources of the lands.

We like to say “What the heck is all the fuss about? Apartheid has fallen. Colonialism has fallen.” But has it really? Look around you. Take a very good look. The bondage created by the likes of Rhodes prevails. The ills of the migrant labour system persist. The methodology of the unrighteous enrichment of the few at the expense of the many, and its related systems endure today. Worker families, especially around our mines continue to grow up poor, fatherless, disconnected and broken.

Fatherlessness was not simply a by-product of the migrant labour system. It was central to it. If you take fathers away from communities, you leave them vulnerable. It was a method of control that left entire communities weak and deprived and it endures today. The road of poverty has very much followed the many exploited to enrich the few unrighteously.

The prevailing systems that started with the likes of Rhodes lead to the massacre of 34 miners at Marikana. Don’t try and kid yourself around the connectedness of what happened there to 300 plus years of economic exploitation and exclusion. And those systems endure today. The mentality of the enrichment of a small elite at the expense of the many is alive and well.

This leaves every single South African with a massive social problem to deal with. Its not just the problem of the poor. It’s the problem of us all.

All behavioural violence has social roots. The work of Restorative Justice and Peacemaking is necessarily variegated, yet of a whole cloth (That cloth includes symbolic reminders of abuse and abusers). Understanding how social power is distributed is key to responding to conflict. (From Ambassadors for Reconciliation)

Rhodes must fall. Images of him must go. The mentality of those that are enriched unrighteously at the expense of the many must go. And others from that era that had the same mentality and employed the same methodology in unrighteous enrichment must suffer the same fate.

It’s time to set aside our small little apathetic complaining lives and allow the flame lit by the students at UCT to start a fire in us all that will start to raze the enduring systems of inequality to the ground. It’s time to live with a passion that advances us all.

Don’t kid yourself that this is all about statues. It’s not. But often our symbolic physical acts point to something beyond the actual acts.

My daughter and myself went through domestic trauma during her early life. We have both needed to heal in different ways. I married an amazing second husband and that has been part of my healing and restoration. When she met her boyfriend 15 months ago she was going through a trauma counselling process. Her boyfriend, a teenager innately and intuitively felt that her space needed a makeover. So he helped her redo her room, getting rid of anything that reminded her of her traumatic past. Was that the be all and end all of her healing? No. But it was part of her healing. A necessary part.

If a teenager knows that the burying of symbols of the past is a necessary part of healing and restoration, why the heck are parts of the “educated” adult population still debating the value of the Rhodes Must Fall Campaign. Kids do this stuff intuitively, but we get so marred by intellectualism and political correctness on both sides, we no longer know who we are. We need to reclaim our humanity and say that we don’t leave symbols of abuse in prominent places and especially at places of learning and advancement that can keep triggering pain and anger. If we reclaimed the dignity in all for all which is central to humanity there would be no need for political correctness and the emptiness and apathy of intellectual debate.

I have heard those opposing the Rhodes Must Fall campaign raising the issue of King Shaka and his cruelty. Are there those alive today whose lives were adversely affected by King Shaka? Does his legacy trigger pain and anger? Are there systems and patterns that flourish today to keep people oppressed as a result of his legacy? If so, those must come to the fore and speak. But don’t be the guy that tries to use the legacy of Shaka, that you are unaffected by, to deride the passion of those affected by and still in bondage to the legacy created by Rhodes, to mute their voices. On a scale of below average to harmful to all, it’s harmful to all.

Dismantling abusive symbolism accords strongly with our work in restorative justice. We acknowledge that we cannot change the past, but we can bury with dignity for those hurt by. Not only can we, but we must.

It’s time to take strong countervailing action to dismantle the declaration of Rhodes (and others like him) over Africa. It’s in the interests of us all.

Peace, by the presence of justice.

Re: Upcoming Training and Latest News


1. 5 Day Mediator Training with Content on Court Annexed Mediation

Upcoming dates are:

20-24 April Durban/Johannesburg

20-24 June Durban

6-10 July

The Thursday of each program can be done as a one day workshop on Court Annexed Mediation for those with prior 40 hour training

Email: training@adr-networksa.co.za

2. One Day ADR in Personal Injury Matters

8 April Johannesburg/Durban/Cape Town

Email: training@adr-networksa.co.za

3. Marikana Evictions

You may have read newspaper reports (Cape Times and Daily Voice) of Victory for Marikana Residents with reference to Access to Justice and Statements by me. Reporting on matters in court or related to court process is not easy for journalists to get complete accuracy on, so here is my media statement which clears up any inaccuracies:

Statement of Sheena Jonker for The Access to Justice Association of Southern Africa: Marikana Matter//Cape Times

In co-operation with Ses’khona People’s rights Movement, please take note of the following:

According to the papers the landowners are as follows:

Power Development Projects (Pty) LTD

H & T Prop cc

PJL Prop (Pty) LTD

Anica Delicio N.O.

Mario Salvatore Delico N.O.

Annemarie Delicio N.O.

In a conversation this morning with the attorney for the applicants, Riaan Nabel, it was confirmed that the first Applicant, Power Development Projects had withdrawn as it was their property that had been overrun so rather than being part of the application pursuing an interdict, that would have to apply for an eviction order, which they are yet to do

The balance of the applicants (2-6) were now seeking to confirm the Interdict. The attorney who we had instructed in this matter on behalf of the community is away overseas and I called  to discuss confirmation of the Interdict by consent. The basis of our view that this should happen was:

  1. According to their attorney the only land occupied belongs to the first applicant who has now withdrawn
  2. The land belonging to the other applicants is unoccupied and so there would be no need for any evictions/forced removals and was solely to guard Applicants 2-6’s rights against future invasion
  3. We have advised the community to guard against any further settlement or extensions to dwellings

I am most concerned that notwithstanding my conversation with the attorneys for the applicants, the name of the First Applicant appears on the Order granted. In principle this could mean the community is indeed faced with attempts at eviction and removal (which would be unlawful). I intend to get Mr Nabel’s written confirmation that this was erroneous and that the Order will not be used adverse to what we discussed. If I cannot gain such confirmation we will instruct our attorneys to bring an application to vary the order and will naturally seek an adverse costs order against the applicant.

We will also be watching the matter very carefully and will work to ensure that the interdict is indeed used only to prevent future invasion. On Mr Nabel’s say so, as of today there were no occupiers on Applicants 2-6’s land, so if any removals are attempted, then something is very wrong and we will instruct our attorneys to act to take remedial action

I understand there are between 5000 and 8000 occupants on the land

Please note that the Access to Justice Association of Southern Africa is an NPO that mobilizes legal and dispute resolution resources for the poor. As advocates for Restorative Justice Peacemaking, our goal is always to divert these matters to proper consultative dialogue on meeting the housing needs of shackdwellers and to accomplish the exit of land owned by others at an agreed time with appropriate alternative measures in place and specifically guarding the rights and interests of vulnerable persons

We generally instruct attorneys to represent the community to guard their rights and we often join the proceedings as Amicus Curiae to assist in guiding all the parties to consultative dialogue. We have not done so in this matter yet due to the withdrawal of the first applicant. If indeed they do bring an eviction application we will reconsider our position.

But we will still work with the community to build bridges with Human Settlements with a view to accomplishing provision of adequate housing and services. And Ses’Khona People’s Rights movement will work with the community to assist in preventing any further occupation and will also explain the ramifications of today’s proceedings in a public meeting tomorrow

Please let me know if you need any other information”

4. Mediation Services

We have highly skilled mediators all over SA. Contact sheena@mediatorsa.co.za for mediation services.

5. One year Distance Program

Our distance program offers specialization in various areas of ADR. Please email training@adr-networksa.co.za

Monthly payment options are available on all programs

As always, Peace