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S. African president unveils Mandela statue

2013-12-16 20:57

By (Xinhua)

PRETORIA - South African President Jacob Zuma on Monday unveiled a nine-meter statue of former president Nelson Mandela at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, as part of the Reconciliation Day celebrations.

"We are happy that we are here. You will notice that in all the statues that have been made of Madiba (Mandela), he is raising his fist and at times stretching it. That derives from the slogan of the ANC (African National Congress)," Zuma said.

S. African president unveils Mandela statue

South African military and police helicopters fly past a 9-metre (30-feet) bronze statue of the late former South African President Nelson Mandela after it was unveiled as part of the Day of Reconciliation Celebrations at the Union Buildings in Pretoria December 16, 2013. [Photo/Agencies]

The statue depicts Mandela smiling with his arms stretched outwards.

"This one (statute is different from many. He is stretching out his hands. He is embracing the whole nation. You shouldn't say this is not Madiba because we know him with his one (raised) hand. "

The bronze colossus was unveiled at the Union Buildings, where Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa's first black president in 1994.

The unveiling also marked the centenary celebrations of the Union Building.

The statute recognizes the contributions Mandela made to the country in fighting the repressive apartheid regime.

The Union Buildings was also where Mandela lied in state for three days during which about 100,000 people from all walks of life converged and paid their last respects.

It is befitting to honor a world icon in this manner, said Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande.

"Today's celebration, which is also Reconciliation Day, is a reminder that we should all be a nation that is united.

"We need to take this country to new heights in carrying Madiba' s legacy forward."

Quoting Mandela, he said, "No individual can liberate the country alone, thus we should never throw stones but rather tolerate each other."

"The unveiling signals the start of celebrating and living the late Madiba's legacy and the end of the mourning period," said a government statement.

The government statement added, "Former President Mandela is associated with the promotion of reconciliation which is why the day was chosen for the unveiling."

December 16 has been commemorated by the Afrikaners in South Africa for over 150 years.

It is also the centenary for the founding of Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), the armed wing of the ANC.

With the ushering in of a democratically elected government, South Africa in 1994 set December 16 as Reconciliation Day.

Reconciliation Day is meant to reflect and revisit the horror of the events of past and the promise of a shared future together, regardless of color, culture or creed.

According to the government, this year's event will be under the theme "Nation Building, Social Cohesion and Reconciliation".

The 800,000-US-dollar bronze statue was made by South African sculptors Andre Prinsloo and Ruhan Janse van Vuuren

In a press statement on Sunday, presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj said, "The unveiling, taking place just a day after the burial of the former president, signals the start of celebrating and living the late Madiba's legacy and the end of the mourning period."

"The statue is expected to draw large numbers of people to the Union Buildings," he said.

Several dignitaries, including former president Thabo Mbeki, Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, and Dali Tambo, head of Koketso Growth, which made the statue, took part in the unveiling ceremony.

Mandela, who died of illness at his home in Johannesburg on December 5 at the age of 95, was buried at his rural village of Qunu, in Eastern Cape on Sunday.

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