16 December 2013
A 21-gun salute and a fly-past by SA Air Force jets accompanied the unveiling of a nine-metre tall bronze statue of Nelson Mandela at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Monday, South Africa’s Reconciliation Day.
Madiba’s statue stands tall on the southern lawns of the Union Buildings, where the statue of former Prime Minister Barry Hertzog was previously mounted, about half- way up the Delville Wood War Memorial, a tribute to South African troops who fell during the First World War, including a plaque in memory of those who died during the Korean War.
The statue of Hertzog has been moved to the eastern part of the Delville Wood War Memorial.
The statue has Mandela’s arms outstretched, symbolising a united South Africa.
President Jacob Zuma, speaking at the unveiling, noted that the statue differed from other statues of Mandela, which typically show him with fist raised in the traditional “struggle salute” of the African National Congress.
“He is embracing the country. Both hands are embracing the entire nation,” Zuma said, adding that the Madiba footwork was the same – showing him, showing South Africa, as being on the move.
Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile, who led Monday’s proceedings, said the statue – by sculptors Andre Prinsloo and Ruhan Jansen van Vuuren – would stand as a monument to the life of Madiba and his contribution to freedom and reconciliation in South Africa.
Mandla Mandela, Madiba’s eldest grandson, and US civil rights activist the Reverend Jesse Jackson, were among the dignitaries present to witness the unveiling of the statue.
Artist and poet Professor Pitika Ntuli said the statue “has been constructed in a way that it has open arms that is welcoming the world to embrace a united nation, a nation in the process of reconciling with its painful past”.
The Union Buildings, which marked its centenary last month, is the place where Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s first democratically elected president in 1994.
Mandela died at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg on 5 December 2013 at the age of 95. He was laid to rest at the Mandela family farm in Qunu in the Eastern Cape on Sunday.
According to the Presidency, Monday’s unveiling signalled the end of the 10-day official mourning period following Mandela’s passing away, and the beginning of celebrating and living Mandela’s legacy.
The Presidency said national flags around the country would be raised and fly as normal from Monday, having flown at half-mast throughout the national mourning period.