President Cyril Ramaphosa says that any symbol, monument or activity that glorifies racism and "represents our ugly past" has no place in South Africa.
In his speech prepared for Heritage Day on Thursday, Ramaphosa said the government had worked hard to transform the heritage landscape of the country since democracy, coming from a history of prejudice and exclusion.
"The naming and renaming of towns and cities forms part of this, as well as the erection of new statues and monuments," he said in his speech.
"Monuments glorifying our divisive past should be repositioned and relocated."
He said this had generated controversy, with some accusing the government of trying to erase history.
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"Building a truly non-racial society means being sensitive to the lived experiences of all this country's people," he said.
"We make no apologies for this because our objective is to build a united nation. Any symbol, monument or activity that glorifies racism, that represents our ugly past, has no place in democratic South Africa."
Ramaphosa said restoring dignity was the preoccupation of the current administration.
The Department of Arts and Culture recently confirmed to Arts24 that the national audit of monuments had not yet taken place and that no statues had yet been earmarked for relocation.
It reported that Cabinet had decided that these statues should be moved to "Cultural Nation Building Parks", instead of "theme parks".
Ramaphosa said on Thursday that the apartheid government had denigrated cultures and had tried to make people ashamed of who they were, including their appearances.
"It is disheartening to see that, in democratic South Africa, there are still crude stereotypes of black women being put on public display.
In apparent reference to a offensive TRESemme hair advert that was published on the Clicks website, he said:
An offensive hair advertisement that was recently published shows that we still have a long way to go.
Ramaphosa also touched on sustained violence against women and children.
He said citizens could not regard themselves as totally free while women and children lived in fear.
"So long as women are being harassed, abused, beaten, raped and murdered, we cannot say we are a civilised society.
"Abusing women is not our tradition, nor is it our custom. It is not, and will never be, our heritage."