De Beers founder Cecil Rhodes is to blame for 20,000 African deaths, says a leading Oxford University academic.
Prof William Beinart says Rhodes was a “more brutal figure than previously thought” after researching his life for the commission appointed by Oriel College to consider whether a controversial statue should be removed.
He held the “Rhodes Chair of Race Relations” from 1997 to 2015, which he now describes as “a cause of embarrassment and humour”.
Beinart says machine guns were used to mow down Africans during the colonization of Zimbabwe by Rhodes’s British South Africa company.
He also describes how dynamite was dropped into caves where men, women and children were sheltering, and villages and crops were razed.
Beinart, emeritus professor at St Antony’s College, told The Times of London that his research evidence had been “buried” in an annex to the commission’s report.
“Rhodes was more strongly committed to racial segregation and more brutal than previously thought,” Beinart told the newspaper. “In the light of the evidence, my view is that the college should not retain a prominent celebratory statue on Oxford’s high street.”
About 150 lecturers at Oxford University are currently boycotting Oriel, the college attended by Rhodes over its decision not to remove a controversial statue of Rhodes.
Detractors accuse him of being a racist, a white supremacist and the father of apartheid.
The college’s governing body said in June that it favored removing the monument (pictured), but had concluded such a move would be too difficult in terms of heritage and planning consent, and too expensive. The decision effectively overturned an earlier commitment to take down the statue.