South Africa’s history is diverse and convoluted.
Due to changes in government and sympathies over time, heroes become enemies and outlaws become heroes.
It does not take a change in facts but rather perspective to make this happen.
Take for example Cecil John Rhodes, you will find a large memorial dedicated to him in Cape Town, a statue in Kimberley and of course his famous gravesite near Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.
But he was a colonial hero, keen to bring (in his opinion) the benefits of the superior British system to Africa and beyond. He showed respect to Boer South Africans in the Cape colony, which was rare for a “brit”. Yet Rhodes tried to over throw the Transvaal Boer government, all in the name of better progress.
The African tribes influenced by his decisions and policies have no reason to respect him. He conspired take the land from under their feet, wanting the mineral wealth of Africa for his colonial dream.
But he was not alone in this, colonialism and imperialism (not just British) made a definite imprint on our history as a country and a continent. Roads, bridges, dams, buildings and even town names reflect this time and some of these things are rather useful.
So we keep his memorial and we celebrate it in our own, new way – Tourism. We love the fact that tourists can now proudly say they have visited South Africa. We are no longer the shameful “apartheid” Republic. We can never erase history and that is great because we have to learn from what went before.
As we move forward we slowly add the names of struggle heroes to our streets and buildings, we change the names of towns and cities, we mould a new history from a new perspective.
Yet we have torn very little down, we don’t talk about over throwing or conquering. Instead we talk about peace, forgiveness, equality and freedom. This is how we show our maturity as a nation.