Did you know?
Cecil John Rhodes is credited with establishing the now-massive Western Cape fruit industry.
To see all the statues of Cecil John Rhodes, from Cape Town to Kimberley and beyond, you’d think the unsmiling man under the broad-brimmed hat once ruled South Africa.
In a way – and for a few heady years – Cecil John Rhodes did, to a large extent, 'run the show’ in South Africa. In his time, there was no-one about who could beat him for long-term vision, deal-making, politicking and profiteering off the diamond fields of this country.
But, as is the case with most men of world stature, there were many sides to the Rhodes persona. Cecil and his brother Herbert arrived at the Kimberley diamond fields in 1871 and within 17 years he had bought up many of the diamond concerns in the area. He briefly returned to London and, working with the Diamond Syndicate, established a system of international price control that stands to this day.
Rhodes entered public life and by 1890 he was prime minister of the Cape Colony. His dream, however, was to extend British influence through Africa, by way of a Cape to Cairo railway line. Through securing British protectorates over his many mining concessions in southern Africa, Rhodes began to move northwards.
By the time he ruled the Cape, Cecil John Rhodes’ influence stretched way beyond the Limpopo River, over what later became Rhodesia – now Zimbabwe. Some say he tricked the Matabele king, Lobengula, into a dodgy mining concession in this part of southern Africa.
In 1895 Rhodes committed what many still see as his major blunder, in supporting the overthrow of the Transvaal government by way of the infamous Jameson Raid. The failed raid forced him to resign as prime minister of the Cape.
When the South African War (formerly known as the Anglo-Boer War) found Kimberley surrounded by besieging Boers, Rhodes was in the thick of things, often competing with the local British garrison. His company – De Beers – even built a special cannon named 'Long Cecil', to counter the Boers' famous 'Long Tom'.
Rhodes died at Muizenberg in Cape Town on March 26, 1902, and was later buried in what is today the Matobo National Park in Zimbabwe. One of his most enduring legacies was the establishment of a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford, funded by his estate.