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White backlash as colonial statue comes down in South Africa

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The defaced statue of British colonialist Cecil Rhodes is tied by straps to a crane before its removal at the University of Cape Town on April 9, 2015/AFP

The defaced statue of British colonialist Cecil Rhodes is tied by straps to a crane before its removal at the University of Cape Town on April 9, 2015/AFP

CAPE TOWN, South Africa, Apr 9 – As preparations were made to remove the statue of British colonialist Cecil Rhodes from the University of Cape Town Thursday, white groups launched protests to protect what they see as their heritage.

South Africa’s oldest university voted Wednesday to remove the monument from its campus after a month of student protests against a perceived symbol of historical white oppression.

The government welcomed the move.

“It marks a significant… shift where the country deals with its ugly past in a positive and constructive way,” Sandile Memela, spokesman for the arts and culture ministry, told AFP.

He said the government did not encourage the violent removal of statues, and would host “a consultative conference in the next few weeks where the country can adopt an official position” on statues and other colonial symbols.

On Thursday morning, the youth wing of white Afrikaner solidarity group AfriForum handed a memorandum to parliament in Cape Town to “demand protection” for their heritage.

The Afrikaners are descendents of mainly Dutch settlers from the 17th and 18th centuries and dominated South Africa’s white-minority government before the end of apartheid in 1994.

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