Whites-only row for Rhodes

October 13, 1995

Ten Rhodes scholars from southern Africa have arrived in Oxford to begin their studies and there is not a black face among them.

Members of the Rhodes Scholarship Southern African Forum, which comprises scholars from southern Africa and elsewhere, are angry about the selection procedures followed - especially since the group chosen last year are the first from the new South Africa.

Forum chairman Kuseni Dlamini said: "We find it hard to believe that in the whole of South Africa - let alone southern Africa - it was impossible to find a black person with the qualities required of Rhodes scholars. We are also unhappy about the gender breakdown of the group - nine men and one woman."

The forum wrote a letter of protest to the Oxford-based Rhodes Trust, and met with members of the trust and the general secretary of the committee for southern Africa at large, Judge Laurie Ackerman, in June to raise concern about the racial composition of the latest group of scholars.

South African selectors said their committees were struggling to attract sufficient numbers of black applicants. Although there have been several black Rhodes scholars in the past, the scholarship has never managed to attract as many applications from black students as from white students.

It was not known whether this was because information about the scholarships was not reaching black students, whether black students were taking up other awards, or whether they found the Rhodes scholarship intimidating.

"We certainly are trying to do everything possible to eliminate self-exclusion from the programme," said Judge Ackerman, one of South Africa's leading legal minds and a Constitutional Court judge.

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