Date Set for Mandela Statue Unveiling

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma is set to unveil the R8 million statue of former President Nelson Mandela on 16 December -- the Day of Reconciliation -- at the Union Buildings.

The nine-meter bronze statue of the global icon will depict Madiba with his signature smile, with an open arm pose and one leg slightly extended back. The statue is still being constructed a team of South African artists.

Artist Andre Prinsloo told SAnews that it was difficult to determine at which age they should capture the ailing former President.

"It was an extremely difficult task because everyone knows what Mandela looks like. We eventuality decided to capture him using his images ten years after 1994," said Prinsloo, who teamed up with another South African artist, Ruhan Jansen van Vuuren.

The two have in the past worked together on sculptures of Chief Langalibalele and Dr Abdullah Abdurahman.

Van Vuuren said they tried to capture Madiba as a symbol of peace, "where people can go to when they need answers".

"This is a lifelong dream to work on such a sculpture - it is really an honour," said Prinsloo.

The unveiling of the statue is part of the countdown to 20 years of democracy and part of the Union Buildings' centenary, which will take place in December.

Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile told a media briefing on Thursday that the unveiling was also part of transforming the Union Buildings to represent more broadly South Africa's journey to democracy.

"The mounting of Tata Madiba's statue at the Union Buildings is part of our ongoing work to develop new symbols and monuments that reflect our collective aspirations as SA and the new values we stand for," said the minister.

It is still not decided where the statue will be placed at the Union Buildings, but Mashatile said they wanted it to be central. "If it means moving things around, then that will be done."

On 10 May 1994, Mandela, South Africa's first democratically elected President, and his Deputy Presidents were inaugurated at the Union Buildings, after the country's first free elections heralded the beginning of a new era in South Africa's history.

Mashatile said Madiba was from a generation of freedom fighters who taught the nation the values of selflessness, humanity, integrity and respect for one another.

"The statue will ensure that we never forget their contribution to where we are and will be a reminder of what they have taught us."

The Arts and Culture Department is also working on the national heritage monument to be built in Tshwane, which will feature a procession of more than 400 life size bronze statues of various leaders such King Shaka and King Moesheshe, who contributed to shaping the South Africa we live in today.

"This will ensure that the stories of courage and determination are told in full and that they become part of a new and inclusive narrative we are crafting for our country."

In the coming months, the department will also launch stamps and coins in celebration of Mandela's legacy.

This will have positive spinoff for the unemployed, as it will create job opportunities while also contributing to social cohesion and nation building and healing, according to Mashatile.

Mandela, who was discharged from the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria, is recuperating at home following a lengthy stay for a recurring lung infection.

The only life-size statue of Mandela currently stands in Hammanskraal, north Pretoria.

Other famous Madiba statues include the large statue at Sandton Square and the artwork at the Mandela Capture Site outside Howick in KwaZulu-Natal. The most recent was unveiled in the newly renovated South African Embassy in Washington.

Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory CEO Sello Hatang welcomed the creating of the statue, saying there was no greater respect and honour "than making sure that we care for our communities and to remember the values that Madela stood for".