Cecil John Rhodes
Rhodes Cottage in Muizenberg, now used as a Museum
Although South African history dates back to the 1400's when Diaz and da Gama came ashore in the Cape a
person who had a remarkable influence on our history was Cecil John Rhodes.
Rhodes arrived in South Africa in 1870 as a 17 year old boy and went to live with his brother in Kimberley.
As luck would have it, diamonds were found in the Kimberley area that year and Rhodes became a prospector.
He was lucky and by the time he was 19 had accumulated a large fortune.
In 1873 he returned to England to study at the University of Oxford where he obtained his degree in 1881.
While at University he commuted to South Africa a number of times and in that period managed to amalgamate
a large number of diamond claims which were formed into the de Beers Mining Company which still operates today.
The company was controlled by Rhodes.
After finishing his degree he once again returned to South Africa and in 1881 he gained a seat in
the Parliament of the Cape and held the seat for the rest of his life.
In 1890, he became Prime Minister of the Cape Colony and his time in office marks the height of British
influence in politics in the Cape.
In the north at that time were two Boer Republics, the Orange Free State and the
South African Republic in Transvaal (proclaimed between 1854 and 1856).
It was Rhodes' aim to bring them under control of the British Empire.
In trying to further his aim he and Sir Leander Starr Jameson got together and decided to
raid the SA Republic in the Transvaal. This happened on the 29 th of December 1895 and was a
total disaster for Rhodes.So much so that he was forced to resign as the Prime Minister
of the Cape Colony.
This did not deter Rhodes though and he continued to devote himself to the development of Rhodesia.
Rhodes died on the 26th of March 1902 and was buried in the Matopas mountains in Rhodesia.
He left his fortune to establish the Rhodes scholarships.
As he was such an important figure in South African politics and the diamond mining industry in South Africa it was decided to build a memorial in his honour.
The Rhodes Memorial can be seen on the southern slopes of Devils Peak where it
looks out over the Cape towards the north. When you visit Cape Town why not visit the memorial.
It has wonderful views of the Cape Flats and one can see Table Bay to the north and False Bay to the south.
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Cecil John Rhodes