Students engaged in the spring 2015 protests on the University of Cape Town campus demanded
the removal of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes, prompting renewed debate over the appropriate
treatment of colonial and apartheid-era statuary in contemporary South African public spaces.
While the students’ protests were often dismissed in public discourse and media coverage
as misguided or misinformed, this article situates them in the broader context of symbolic
reparations central to the transition to multiracial democracy. We introduce the terms ‘monologic
commemoration’ and ‘multiplicative commemoration’ to describe the two dominant phases of
South African public memory initiatives during and after apartheid. Monologic commemoration
promotes a singular historical narrative of national identity and heroic leadership, whereas
multiplicative commemoration requires the representation of as many diverse experiences
and viewpoints as possible. We examine the #RhodesMustFall campaign as an eruption of
discontent with both the monologic and multiplicative approaches, potentially signalling a
new ‘post-transitional’ phase of South African public culture.