Day after burial, S. Africa unveils Mandela 'unity' statue

Mon Dec 16, 2013 4:05pm EST
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By Thomas Mukoya

PRETORIA (Reuters) - A nine-meter (30-foot) bronze statue of Nelson Mandela with his arms outstretched to symbolize unity and reconciliation was unveiled in South Africa on Monday, a day after the nation buried the former president and anti-apartheid hero.

The 4.5 metric ton statue is the largest of Mandela created in the world and was inaugurated on the lawn of South Africa's hilltop Union Buildings, the seat of the central government, overlooking the capital Pretoria.

Mandela died aged 95 on December 5 in Johannesburg and was buried on Sunday in his home village of Qunu in Eastern Cape province following 10 days of emotion-charged mourning that focused the attention of the world on South Africa.

"We laid Tata to rest in Qunu only yesterday. Today, he rises majestically at the seat of government, as a symbol of peace, reconciliation, unity and progress," South African President Jacob Zuma said at the unveiling.

"Tata" is the Xhosa word for father, and Mandela is revered as the father of the new South Africa born from the end of apartheid in 1994 when he became its first black president.

The inauguration coincided with December 16 Reconciliation Day, a public holiday commemorating the ideal of racial and political reconciliation that Mandela preached after his release in 1990 from 27 years in apartheid prisons.


Under apartheid rule, Reconciliation Day had remembered the 1838 Battle of Blood River, in which some 500 Afrikaner pioneers defeated more than 10,000 Zulu warriors.   Continued...

Visitors stand around a bronze statue of the late former South African President Nelson Mandela hours after it was unveiled as part of Day of Reconciliation celebrations at the Union Buildings in Pretoria December 16, 2013. REUTERS/Adrees Latif