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PRETORIA, December 16, 19:18 /ITAR-TASS/. South African President Jacob Zuma on Monday, December 16, unveiled a monument to Nelson Mandela, former president and anti-apartheid icon, who passed away last week.
The monument was unveiled at the Union Buildings in Pretoria where the first black president had been inaugurated in 1994. Unlike all the other monuments that depict Mandela with an outstretched hand and a clenched fist symbolizing the struggle for freedom, this monument shows him smiling and with open arms.
He embraces the whole nation and calls for unity, Zuma said.
The decision to put up the nine-meter Bronze statue for the centenary of the presidential palace was made a long time ago to coincide with South Africa’s Day of Reconciliation celebrated on December 16. It just so happened that the event took place on the following day after Mandela’s burial in his ancestral home in Qunu.
The construction of the Union Buildings symbolized reconciliation and an alliance between the Boer and British forces after several wars. Zuma said the monument to Mandela would lend a new dimension to this reconciliation.
The monument was erected in place of a four-meter statue of Boer General James Hertzog, prime minister of the South African Union and champion of Afrikaans culture, which was dismantled last month.
This is Mandela’s tallest statue in the world.
Mandela died at the age of 95 in his home outside Johannesburg on Thursday, December 5. “He passed on peacefully in the company of his family around 20h50 on the 5th of December 2013,” Zuma said. “Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.”
Zuma paid tribute to Mandela’s “tireless struggle” for freedom that had earned him the respect of the world. “His humility, his compassion, and his humanity earned him their love. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Mandela family. To them we owe a debt of gratitude,” he said. “They have sacrificed much and endured much so that our people could be free.”
The president said Mandela would be accorded a state funeral and ordered that all flags of the Republic of South Africa be lowered to half-mast from December 6 and to remain at half-mast until after the funeral.
Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mandela was taken to hospital on June 8 with a lung infection, which could be an echo of the tuberculosis he had suffered from during his 27-year imprisonment. He left the hospital on September 1.
Mandela made his last public appearance at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa in 2010.
In 1993, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and a year later became South Africa’s first black president. He held office until 1999.
President Mandela will be buried on Sunday at the family farm in Qunu, Eastern Cape, at noon.