Dignitaries unveil a bronze statue of the late Nelson Mandela as part of the Day of Reconciliation celebrations at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa, yesterday.
PRETORIA: On a public holiday dedicated to reconciliation, South Africans started coming to terms with the loss of Nelson Mandela, unveiling a giant statue yesterday to honour his struggle for equality.
A day after the democracy icon was buried with full honours at his boyhood village nearly 1,000km away, a 30-foot bronze likeness was unveiled in the vast gardens of the Union Buildings, the seat of government in Pretoria.
This is where generations of apartheid heads of state signed many of the racial laws Mandela spent most of his life fighting against.
President Jacob Zuma presided over the unveiling of the effigy of a smiling Mandela in mid-stride, arms outstretched in a welcoming gesture, sporting a trademark “Madiba shirt”.
Zuma said the open-armed gesture denoted that “South Africa is now a democratic country, he is embracing the entire nation, he is advancing to the nation to say: ‘let us come together, let us unite’.”
“Yes, he has a history of struggle, and yes, he used to be a soldier, but now we wanted to create a peaceful figure that embraced the whole nation, the whole South Africa,” sculptor Andre Prinsloo, who helped assemble the colossus, said. The 4.5-tonne statue is the largest of many erected around the world in honour of the anti-apartheid hero.
“When one looks at comrade Madiba’s statue out there... it is almost like we are hitting the last nail in the coffin of apartheid,” Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy president of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), told the ceremony.