A smiling Nelson Mandela stands nine metres tall, looking out over and embracing the city of Pretoria with outstretched arms.
South African President Jacob Zuma unveiled the bronze-plated statue at the Union Buildings today, a day after the former president was buried in Qunu.
“We are happy that we are here. You will notice that in all the statues that have been made of Madiba, he is raising his fist and at times stretching it. That derives from the slogan of the ANC,” Zuma said.
“This one 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 R8 million bronze-plated statue was created by South African sculptors Andre Prinsloo and Ruhan Janse van Vuuren. It is close to the Union Buildings’ lawns, overlooking Arcadia.
Today, the Day of Reconciliation, also marked the centenary of the Union Buildings.
Thousands of people packed a giant marquee erected on the lawns for the public holiday. Zuma would deliver the keynote address.
The unveiling ceremony was slightly delayed as the dignitaries waited for the arrival of members of Mandela’s family travelling from Qunu, in the Eastern Cape. Mandela’s grandson Mandla Mandela arrived accompanied by two family members.
Zuma arrived soon afterwards with his wife Thobeka Madiba Zuma. 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, were present.
Inkatha Freedom Party president Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Democratic Alliance federal chairman Wilmot James were also in attendance.
Many local and international journalists were nearby. Broadcasting equipment had been set up on the lawns of the Union Buildings.
Mandela died at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, aged 95, on December 5.