Cecil John Rhodes


Cecil John Rhodes was the son of a vicar and was born in Hertfordshire England in July 1853. When he was 17 he was sent to South Africa as he had been a sickly child and it was hoped the African climate would benefit him. At age 18 with funding from Rothschild and Co, he set about buying up diamond mines and over the next 17 years he managed to consolidate a monopoly. The De Beers consolidated mines were set up in 1888 and are still the dominant diamond company today. When he was 27 he entered the Cape parliament and by 1890 he had worked his way up to the position of prime minister. As such he used his influence and power to expropriate lands from its African owners by way of the Glen Grey Act which created a labour tax that forced Xhoza men into employment on farms or in industry. Rhodes believed that black people needed to be removed from the land to “stimulate them to labour” and to change their habits. (Obviously to suit the needs of the British Empire)

He also disenfranchised large groups of people by tripling the wealth requirement for voting. This effectively banned black people from voting. He further controlled people by promulgating educational reform and he introduced a “hut tax’ that further impoverished indigenous people.

. Rhodes quoted that” In future nine-tenths of them (blacks) will have to spend their lives in manual labour and the sooner that is brought home to them the better“ He also argued that the “Native is to be treated as a child and denied the franchise” and “We must adopt a system of despotism such as works in India in our relations with the barbarism of South Africa”  

Another bad Idea

He frequently disagreed with the policies of the Transvaal government which he found were not advantageous to mining interests. He believed that he had the power to overthrow the South African Republic of Paul Kruger and the disastrous Jameson raid was planned. When it went horribly wrong, he was forced to resign.  His career never recovered and his health also deteriorated. He died in 1902 and was buried in Zimbabwe which was formerly called Rhodesia named after himself.

Other schemes

In the 1880s there was a severe outbreak of Phylloxera that damaged vineyards and decimated much of the wine industry. Rhodes financed “The Pioneer fruit growing company together with the shipping magnate Percy Molteno, son of Sir John Charles Molteno. He invested in refrigerated export containers to transport fruit to Europe. He bought farms in Stellenbosch and Wellington. The operation grew and he developed Rhodes fruit farms that still operate today.

While Rhodes was at college he was initiated into Freemasonry, it is believed this is what led him to create his own secret society with the aim of bringing the whole world under British rule. A British empire gaining mineral rights from indigenous chiefs was his main goal. He was also devoted to creating a Cape to Cairo railway through British territory.

 He never married and had no heirs. In his will, he left his home and properties in the Cape to the public. He also left a large trust that funds the Rhodes scholarships. It grants 102 of these each year.