Ramaphosa backs removal of statues glorifying apartheid

South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa
South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed support for an ongoing campaign to remove statues glorifying the apartheid past.

“Monuments glorifying our divisive past should be repositioned and relocated,” Ramaphosa said in his virtual address marking the country’s Heritage Day which encourages South Africans to celebrate their culture and the diversity of their beliefs and traditions.

South Africa comes from a history of prejudice and exclusion, and since democracy in 1994, the country has worked to transform its heritage landscape, Ramaphosa said.

The naming and renaming of towns and cities form part of this, as well as the erection of new statues and monuments, the president said.

He spoke as a campaign to remove statues glorifying historical apartheid figures was gaining momentum, with support mainly from blacks but opposition from the whites.

Ramaphosa acknowledged that the campaign has generated controversy, “with some saying we are trying to erase our history.” Building a truly non-racial society means being sensitive to the lived experiences of all this country’s people, Ramaphosa said in support of the campaign.

“We make no apologies for this because our objective is to build a united nation,” he said.

“Any symbol, monument or activity that glorifies racism, that represents the country’s ugly past, has no place in democratic South Africa, Ramaphosa stressed.

The struggle against apartheid was first and foremost aimed at ensuring that all the South African people should reclaim their dignity, black and white, said the president.

Restoring their dignity is the preoccupation of this administration, Ramaphosa said.

“In the wake of COVID-19, and well into the future, it will remain our singular concern,” he added.