Johannesburg: A nine-metre bronze statue of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela will be unveiled in Pretoria in December to kick off celebrations of 20 years of democracy of South Africa. President Jacob Zuma will unveil the statue at the Union Buildings on Reconciliation Day, which falls on December 16, a public holiday that came into effect in 1994 after the end of apartheid with the intention of fostering reconciliation.
The event will also mark the centenary of the Union Buildings, the seat of government in South Africa. Mandela became the first democratically elected President of the country after 27 years as a political prisoner, ending the apartheid-era.
There is also a common link between the Unions Buildings and the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi as both buildings were designed by renowned architect Sir Herbert Baker in the early 1900s.
Ironically, in the apartheid-era, the sprawling Union Buildings grounds were littered with signs stating that non-whites and dogs were barred from its premises.
The two artists working on the statue, Andre Prinsloo and Ruhan Jansen van Vuuren, come from the same African community that suppressed the black majority during apartheid.
The symbolism of Mandela`s success in reconciling the citizens of his "Rainbow Nation", after the end of apartheid era, will be captured in the statue, which Van Vuuren said will reflect him 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 really is an honour," Prinsloo told media at the announcement of the event by Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile.
"The statue will ensure that we never forget their contribution to where we are and will be a reminder of what they (Mandela and other freedom fighters of his generation) have taught us," he said.
"A special issue of stamps and coins in celebration of Mandela`s legacy is also on the cards in the month leading up to the 20th anniversary of his inauguration at the Union Buildings on April 27, 1994," Prinsloo said.
There was no comment from Mandela, who is recuperating at his Johannesburg residence after spending more than two months in a Pretoria hospital for a recurring lung infection.
Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory chief executive officer Sello Hatang welcomed the announcement of the statue as a reminder of the values that Mandela stood for.