PRETORIA - A nine-metre bronze statue of Nelson Mandela with his arms outstretched to symbolise unity and reconciliation was unveiled in South Africa on Monday, a day after the nation buried the former president and anti-apartheid hero.
The 4.5 tonne statue is the largest of Mandela created in the world and was inaugurated on the lawn of South Africa's hilltop Union Buildings, the seat of the central government, overlooking the capital Pretoria.
Mandela died aged 95 on Dec. 5 in Johannesburg and was buried on Sunday in his home village of Qunu in Eastern Cape province following 10 days of emotion-charged mourning that focused the attention of the world on South Africa.
"We laid Tata to rest in Qunu only yesterday. Today, he rises majestically at the seat of government, as a symbol of peace, reconciliation, unity and progress," South African President Jacob Zuma said at the unveiling.
"Tata" is the Xhosa word for father, and Mandela is revered as the father of the new South Africa born from the end of apartheid in 1994 when he became its first black president.
The inauguration coincided with Dec. 16 Reconciliation Day, a public holiday commemorating the ideal of racial and political reconciliation that Mandela preached after his release in 1990 from 27 years in apartheid prisons.