Zuma: Mandela statue ‘a reminder of commitment to better life for all’

2013-12-16 16:21

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The 9-metre statue of former president Nelson Mandela, unveiled at the Union Buildings today, will forever remind South Africans of “his commitment to an improved quality of life for all”, President Jacob Zuma has said.

Ministers, ambassadors, business, leaders of opposition parties and church leaders were among an estimated 3?000 people who descended on the seat of government for the unveiling on Reconciliation Day. Many people were bused in to commemorate the day, from provinces including Free State, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and various areas in Gauteng.

The event was alsoattended by US human rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and former president Thabo Mbeki.

The 10-day mourning period, which ended with Mandela’s burial in an intimate ceremony after the service in Qunu yesterday, was the most difficult period, not only for Africa, but the entire world, said Zuma.

Zuma said the removal of the Hertzog statue marked a new chapter in which an “inclusive narrative” of the country was being written to emphasise that “we are now one nation and that our national symbols need to reflect that unity in diversity”.

Zuma comforted all those grief stricken by reminding them Mandela would “live in our hearts and inspire us to do something good every single day to honour his memory”.

“To you we say the period of national mourning the passing of our father, President Madiba, ended at midnight on Sunday. From today, we wipe away those tears. He lives on in our hearts and we will remember him for doing good every day and working hard to unite our nation,” said Zuma in isiZulu.

Zuma received a warmer welcome from those gathered inside the white marquee compared to the embarrassing booing in front of world leaders during the memorial service at FNB last Tuesday.

Mandela had turned Reconciliation Day into a “symbol” of victory from the country’s divided past to a South Africa united in its diversity, said Zuma, echoing other speakers who hailed Mandela’s conscious decision to drive the country towards reconciliation.

“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. In his humility, Madiba left it to the South African people to celebrate his life and legacy and to decide how he should be remembered,” said Zuma.

Dali Tambo, the son of the late ANC stalwart OR Tambo, led the team whic created the work of art and worked the entire week to get it up on time.

The R8 million statue would be a reminder of Mandela’s commitment, leadership and dedication to the struggle against apartheid.

“It will forever remind us of his commitment to an improved quality of life for all. It will also remind us of how far we have come as a nation in just a few years. The glaring reality is that before 1994, there would have been no statue of Madiba at the Union Buildings,” said Zuma.

While Zuma and others lauded Mandela, his grandson, Mandla Mandela, admitted it was difficult to find words to eulogise the celebrated statesman.

Mandla recounted his first meeting with his grandfather in Pollsmoor Prison when he was nine years old.

“When I left that meeting after 45 minutes I was very bitter because I thought prison was only for bad people. I was bitter because I thought white people represented our oppression. That was until I met (anti-apartheid activist) Helen Joseph,” said Mandla who thanked the world for the outpouring of love displayed for his grandfather since he died.

ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa said the unveiling of the statue was another symbol “of a nail hitting the apartheid coffin”.

“It is almost like we’re saying to the world that he is finally up there and we have defeated apartheid again,” said Ramaphosa, delivering the ANC’s message.

The bronze Mandela statue, with arms raised to the sides in a smile, was erected where former South African prime minister JBM Hertzog’s statue stood for many decades.

The removal of Hertzog’s statue to the left of the Union Buildings was welcomed by his family yesterday with Hertzog family spokesperson Gert Opperman, who attended the event, summing it up as a befitting honour to Mandela.

Hertzog was head of state between 1924 and 1939.

Opperman said the Hertzog family was happy the former prime minister’s statue had made way for a man who represented a “different time” in South Africa’s history.

DA MP Wilmot James said Mandela’s work represented all the hope South Africans needed for a better future, while IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi called for his party and the ANC to share the stage and resume preaching reconciliation whenever possible to honour Mandela.

Congress of the People MP Willie Madisha said Mandela was an extraordinary man whose “humanity” would continue to unite the world years after he is gone.

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