African shoestrings – South Africa Day Thirty-seven – Rhodes Memorial Cape Town
Just up the road from Observatory, we found the Rhodes Memorial. A little gem of a place!
Cecil John Rhodes, founder of the famous De Beers Diamond Company and British Empire builder had a big influence on the way Southern Africa was carved up politically in the nineteenth century. He was Prime Minister of the Cape Colony from 1890-95 but by then he had already made his fortune through Kimberley Diamond Mines and a huge Gold strike near J’burg.
He established British Colonial power in Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Bechuanaland (Botswana) to name but a few.
Mind you he profited personally from these ventures as he established a few more gold mines on the way.
Strangely enough he’s probably better known for the Rhodes scholarship. Something he established by way of his will devoting most of his wealth to this noble cause. The scholarship even today still sends winners from countries other than Great Britain to study at Oxford University.
From an Australian point of view the most (in)famous winner was the then beer swilling Bob Hawke, arguably it’s most popular Prime Minister ever.
Well they’ve built a memorial to this guy (Rhodes, not Hawke) on the slopes of Devil’s Peak. It’s a bit like a mini coliseum, all columns and bronze statues of Lions bordering impressive bluestone granite steps that lead to a bronze bust of Rhodes. Really over the top stuff!
We found out about this place from a couple of white University students who we chatted to on one of our many minibus trips. We’re harden pro’s now. That same bus was also driven by, much to our surprise, a white guy, so times are definitely changing.
Actually they said that the little café next to it was worth a visit. In fact it was almost more fascinating than old Rhodes. To coin a phrase “it was just so colonial”. Wicker chairs and small round tables were scattered around the garden.
Nothing scattered about the young white waiters though, about six of them stood guard at the front of the garden, in their gleaming white shirts and black bow ties, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting prospects. It was the sort of place that had this been England or even Australia, would have made your wallet tremble. But this is South Africa and even our pitiful dollar made it real value for money. Mind you we only had coffee and cake!