South Africa has unveiled a massive statue of anti-apartheid hero and former president Nelson Mandela, who died on December 5. The inauguration coincided with the country's Day of Reconciliation.
Speaking during the unveiling ceremony on the lawns of the Union Buildings, South African President Jacob Zuma said the statue's outstretched arms symbolized a call for people to join together.
"South Africa is now a democratic country, he is embracing the entire nation, he is advancing to the nation to say: 'Let us come together, let us unite'," he said.
Members of the public could follow the unveiling on huge screens. The ceremony was accompanied by a 21-gun salute, while air force jets flew over in the "missing man" formation that usually denotes a fallen pilot.
Day of Reconciliation
The statue, which had been planned long before Mandela's death, replaces one of Barry Hertzog, an Afrikaner nationalist who was prime minister of South Africa from 1924 to 1939. Hertzog's family gave their permission for it to be moved to another location in the gardens of the Union Buildings, the seat of government in the capital, Pretoria.
The ceremony came as South Africa celebrates Reconciliation Day, a public holiday commemorating racial and political reconciliation - an ideal that Mandela embodied for many both in his words and actions, and as the country's first black president.
The new monument is the largest of the some half-a-dozen statue of Mandela in South Africa and the rest of the world.
tj/ph (Reuters, AFP)