White South Africans have chained themselves to the statues of colonial-era leaders to protest against them being vandalised or removed.
Crowds rallied at the statues of Paul Kruger in the capital, Pretoria, and Jan van Riebeeck in Cape Town, saying they were part of their heritage
Black protesters have been defacing colonial-era statues, describing them as racist symbols.
White minority rule ended in South Africa in 1994.
The spate of attacks on statues began last month at the University of Cape Town, where excrement was poured over a monument to 19th Century British colonialist Cecil Rhodes.
Kruger, a contemporary of Rhodes, was an Afrikaner leader known for his opposition to the British in South Africa.
Van Riebeeck was a Dutch coloniser who arrived in South Africa on 5 April 1652.
A white protester at his statue held a placard which read: “Hands off our heritage. This is genocide.”
South Africa’s leftwing Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party has backed the campaign to remove the statues.
“All these statues must go down,” its spokesman Mbuyseni Ndlozi said earlier this week.
“We need to craft a new symbolism to remember and commemorate the colonial and apartheid past that is not based only on icons of white supremacy like Jan van Riebeeck and Paul Kruger but shows freedom fighters, black and white, who opposed it.”
Government officials have condemned the attacks on statues, and say a decision on their future will be taken only after consulting all groups.
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