Rhodes’ imperialism gave rise to a pattern of settler colonialism in Southern Africa predicated on racial domination in political, economic and social spheres. In Rhodesia, 8 million disenfranchised black people eked out a living at subsistence level or below it, while 250,000 white people, barely 3% of the population, owned more than half of the country’s available land, and virtually all of its business and industry, before independence from colonial rule in 1980. Education, healthcare and housing were all segregated, with white people enjoying levels equivalent to those in western Europe or the United States.
Rhodes’ statue, then, is no mere physical artefact. It is imbued with a noxious history.