Rhodes Memorial stands on the southeastern slope of Devil’s Peak, a glinting white comemmoration of the life and work of a man who had much to do with how southern Africa is shaped today.
Of course, he must take as much blame for the ravages of colonialism as credit for the development of South Africa – through the gold and diamond mines which he controlled – into a leading continental economy, but the memorial, naturally, accentuates the positive!Rhodes was a colossus of capitalism – he wrote the first million-pound check, in the late 1890s – and a major agent of British imperialism, who worked to make Africa a British colony in its entirety, from the Cape to Cairo.
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When he died – very young, of heartbreak born of unrequited love for a young man, it is said – he gave a substantial portion of his landholdings to the University of Cape Town (just a bit further down the slopes from the monument).
Today, the massive granite structure, with its bronze lions, charging horseman and ungrammatical Rudyard Kipling epitaph, is useful for three things: (1) it’s a major make-out spot for university students; (2) it’s a good place to go for views of the Cape Flats; and (3) it’s the perfect launching point for walking expeditions up Devil’s Peak – there are several well-worn paths – and the perfect recuperation point after such a walk – it has an adjacent tea house which serves delicious scones and light meals.