FALL GUYS: A month to the day since Chumani Maxwele (left, on the plinth) started the Rhodes Must Fall protest, he and fellow students celebrate as the statue of Cecil John Rhodes is taken from the heart of the UCT campus yesterday Image by: ESA ALEXANDER
At 5.37pm yesterday Cecil John Rhodes "fell".
After a month of protest that sparked a nationwide movement, students at the University of Cape Town finally succeeded in getting the statue moved from the campus.
An emotional and animated crowd of students surrounded the statue as it was lifted off the pedestal that had borne it since 1934, cheering as it was placed on the back of a truck.
Earlier, the fence surrounding the statue collapsed as students pushed forward to get a better view.
Police tried to appease the crowd, which drew this response from the militant students: "Remember Marikana!"
Then the chant continued: "One settler, one bullet."
As the statue was secured on the truck, dozens of students jumped aboard, slapped the face of the statue and covered it with paper and ribbons.
Some splashed its head with green paint, which dripped down its face. The nose had been painted orange in a previous instance of vandalism.
At a special sitting on Wednesday night the university council decided that the statue be removed. It has been taken to a safe location approved by Heritage Western Cape.
It is now up to the heritage authorities to look after it until a decision is made as to its final disposition.
The university's management was forced to act after politics student Chumani Maxwele began the protest by throwing human faeces at the statue on March 9 to highlight what he regarded as institutionalised racism at UCT.
Maxwele said yesterday that the Rhodes Must Fall group that campaigned for the statue to be removed welcomed the council's compliance, which he said came after the committed protest.
"It was a concerted effort by students who pushed and made it a national issue."
He said the Rhodes statue's fall was equal to "the falling of white power".
"It's been an emotional experience," said Snothando Mthimunye, a student.
"This hits close to home as a black person. We are transforming the university for all blacks."
Another student, Ntebaleng Morake, said "the real work begins today".
Yesterday's removal came as the statue of Louis Botha outside the gates of parliament became the latest in a series of South African statues to be vandalised.
The monument to the first prime minister of the Union of South Africa, which depicts Botha on a horse inscribed with the tribute "warrior, farmer, statesman", was daubed with red and blue paint.