South African student Joshua Nott was a prominent member of the 2015 campaign to have a statue of imperialist Cecil Rhodes removed from Cape Town University on the grounds that it was racist and colonial.
Speaking to IOL News during the campaign, 23-year-old Nott said: “You wouldn’t see a swastika in Jerusalem”.
The law student has been heavily criticised for accepting a scholarship founded by Rhodes for “young colonialists” and the “retention of the unity of the British Empire”:
“Double standards from Joshua Nott,” a woman named Dot Gerhold wrote on Facebook. “Do your protest friends know about this?
Nott, originally from Johannesburg, has defended his decision, saying he has “no regrets” as he will use the scholarship to “defeat the very ideals of what it originally stood for”.
But the postgraduate student has vowed not to restart the debate surrounding the Rhodes statue at Oxford because the campaign has become “very unintelligent”.
Students at the university ran an unsuccessful campaign to have the sculpture removed from Oriel College in 2015.
“When the Rhodes Must Fall campaign began it was less about the statue and more about student transformation at Cape Town University,” Nott is reported to have written on social media, according to the Telegraph.
“It has become very unintelligent. I think protests should not be degraded to that level .”
Almost 8,000 foreign students have graduated from Oxford as Rhodes scholars since the scheme was founded in 1902.
Nott will be joined at Oxford by fellow Rhodes activist Mbalenhle Matandela, who will enrol on an MPhil in development studies thanks to the scholarship scheme.
Babette Tegldal, a spokeswoman for the Rhodes Trust, told the Times that the South African students’ activism worked in their favour.
“The Rhodes Trust selects scholars based on academic merit, extracurricular achievements, a focus on others and their courage to lead,” she said.
“We pick young people of enormous ability without regard to any particular political affiliation.”