Rhodes Must Fall activist's Oxford scholarship sparks social media backlash

Joshua Nott Credit: Facebook
Joshua Nott Credit: Facebook

UCT’s #RhodesMustFall activists Joshua Nott and Mbali Matandela have accepted scholarships worth R670‚000 each from the Rhodes Trust to study at Oxford University in 2017‚ plunging Nott into a social media storm in both the UK and South Africa.

Nott and Matandela are among nine South Africans who have been awarded the opportunity.

 Both were involved in the 2015 protests at the University of Cape Town‚ calling for a statue of Cecil John Rhodes to be removed from its prominent place on campus.

 Following the publication of articles by British newspapers‚ UCT’s Rhodes Must Fall Facebook page shared a critique of Nott by Brian Kamanzi‚ rejecting him a key member of the movement.

“Every white person has definitely not been ‘central’ to building our movement. This was clear from Azania1‚” it said.

Others labelled Nott a hypocrite.

 Larry Kuiper wrote on Facebook: “How can this be right. Joshua Nott‚ 23 from Johannesburg‚ studied at UCT and as an organiser of the campaign to remove the statue of Cecil John Rhodes said that the statue was ‘like a swastika in Jerusalem’. He has just been handed a £40‚000 post graduate Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford university. Happy to take the money like a proper hippocrate though.”

Others questioned whether it was fair to expect Nott and Matandela to refuse their scholarships.

According to the Rhodes Trust’s website‚ the scholarships are‚ “postgraduate awards supporting outstanding all-round students at the University of Oxford‚ and providing transformative opportunities for exceptional individuals.”

Nott told the Daily Mail that he would “never toast Cecil John Rhodes” and was against his statue being at Oxford’s Oriel College‚ but did not plan to join the Rhodes Must Fall movement at the university.

He also told the newspaper he would use the scholarship to effect change.

Nott’s profile on the Rhodes Trust’s website does not refer to his Rhodes Must Fall activism.

“Joshua Nott is a young South African‚ dedicated to South Africa’s Constitutional imperatives...Joshua is keenly interested in social justice and has pioneered a number of workers’ rights and student focused initiatives.

“Joshua hopes to read for his Bachelor of Civil Law at Oxford University and thereafter return to South Africa in order to pursue a career in the public sector‚” it said.

A Rhodes Trust spokesperson told the Daily Mail it was aware of Nott’s involvement “in a wide range of social change initiatives“.

The Telegraph reported that Nott has defended his scholarship on social media. He 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… It has become very un-intelligent. 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.”


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