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South Africa unveils huge Mandela statue

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.

Watch video 01:48

South Africa after Mandela

The 4.5 ton, nine-meter (30-foot) high bronze statue, which cost some eight million rand (580,800 euros, $800,000) shows Mandela smiling, his arms spread in a gesture of welcome. He is wearing his trademark batik "Madiba shirt."

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.

Mandela, who died on December 5 in Johannesburg at the age of 95, was buried on Sunday in his home village of Qunu after 10 days of national mourning.

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)

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