Pretoria: A nine-metre bronze statue of Nelson Mandela was unveiled here today, a day after the anti-apartheid icon was laid to rest in his childhood village of Qunu.
A 21-gun salute and a fly-past by military aircraft signalled the official unveiling of Mandela`s statue by President Jacob Zuma at the Union Buildings as part of commemorating Reconciliation Day on December 16.
Mandela`s eldest grandson Mandla Mandela was among the dignitaries there to witness the occasion.
Mandela stands tall on the Southern Lawns, where the statue of former Prime Minister Barry Hertzog was mounted. The statue of Hertzog has been moved to the eastern part of the Delville Wood War Memorial.
The unveiling of the statue followed a 10-day period of mourning and celebrating Mandela`s life after his death at the age of 95.
Mandela was yesterday laid to rest in his childhood village with full state honours
as teary-eyed friends and family members paid poignant tributes to the anti-apartheid icon at a traditional funeral ceremony.
Zuma, at the unveiling, said the statue with Mandela`s arms outstretched, symbolised a democratic South Africa united as a rainbow nation.
"He is embracing the country. Both hands are embracing the entire nation," Zuma said.
The President said Mandela`s footwork was the same - showing that he was on the move, as is the country.
Poet, artist and sculptor, Professor Pitika Ntuli, said the statue was symbolic.
"This statue has been constructed in a way that it has open arms that is welcoming the world to embrace a united nation, a nation in the process of reconciling with its painful past," Ntuli said.
The Union Buildings, which is marking its centenary, was also the place where Mandela was inaugurated as the country`s first democratically-elected President in 1994.