Removing Rhodes' statue would be folly, says de Klerk

JOHANNESBURG - Former South African President FW De Klerk has criticised a campaign to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes at Oxford University's Oriel College.

Mr De Klerk said South Africa's white Afrikaner population had many reasons to dislike Rhodes but "never thought of removing his name from our history".

Campaigners say the statue venerates the 19th Century colonialist and the values he stood for.

Former Australian PM Tony Abbott has also said the statue should stay.

Mr Abbott, a Rhodes Scholar, said removing the statue would "substitute moral vanity for fair-minded enquiry".

Upon his death, Cecil Rhodes, who attended Oriel College, left a legacy which has funded the university's prestigious Rhodes Scholarships - postgraduate awards for non-British students.

Mr De Klerk, in a letter to the Times newspaper, said that "for better or worse", Rhodes had made an impact on history, which included the positive contribution of his scholarship scheme.

"If the political correctness of today were applied consistently, very few of Oxford's great figures would pass scrutiny," he said.

He pointed out that Rhodes had been "the architect of the Anglo-Boer War that had a disastrous impact on our people, yet the National Party government never thought of removing his name from our history".

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