JOHANNESBURG A bronze bust of British colonialist Cecil John Rhodes has lost its nose to vandals who severed it with a power tool at a South African mountain slope overlooking Cape Town.
South African officials have increased security in Table Mountain National Park after the vandalism at the temple-like Rhodes Memorial on the slopes of Devil’s Peak, Merle Collins, a national parks spokeswoman, said Monday.
Parks staff have also been cleaning graffiti scrawled on the monument in the incident early Friday, Collins said. One slogan read: “Your dreams of empire will die.”
In April, the University of Cape Town removed a campus statue of Rhodes after protests by students who described it as an emblem of white privilege. Historians describe Rhodes, who died in 1902, as a segregationist who made a fortune in mining and grabbed land from the local population but was also associated with education and philanthropy, partly because of scholarships that carry his name.
South African police are investigating a case of “malicious damage to property” at the Rhodes memorial, police Constable Noloyiso Rwexana said in an email to The Associated Press. No one has been arrested, he said.
Assailants previously targeted the bust, putting a tire around its neck and setting it on fire, according to Collins.
The act was reminiscent of “necklacing,” a kind of lynching carried out against some perceived black collaborators with apartheid during the struggle against South Africa’s former white minority rulers. Apartheid ended with all-race elections in 1994.
Below the Rhodes bust lies an engraved excerpt from a tribute by British author Rudyard Kipling, a contemporary of Rhodes, who is now widely seen in South Africa as a symbol of racial oppression.
The poem’s last lines read: “Living he was the land, and dead, his soul shall be her soul!”