“Death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity.”(From an interview for the documentary Mandela, 1994)
One day after tens of thousands of guests witnessed the state funeral of anti-apartheid activist Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, an imposing 30-foot bronze statue, weighing a reported 4.5 tons, was unveiled at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa—the same venue where Mandela’s body was viewed by tens of thousands of people last week.
Government officials there said the inauguration coincided with the December 16th Day of Reconciliation in that country.
Furthermore, South African President Jacob Zuma said the Union Buildings—where the statue was erected—has been declared a National Heritage site.
The Union Buildings are described as a modern day acropolis, built at the highest point of South Africa’s capital city, Pretoria. It forms the official seat of South Africa’s government and houses the Presidency as well as the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Before being laid to rest on Sunday, Mandela’s mortal remains were taken to his home village, Qunu, in the Eastern Cape, for burial after 10 days of mourning. A military Guard of Honor welcomed Madiba’s remains. The coffin was transported from an aircraft to a hearse on a gun carriage.
The South African government said that the funeral service would accommodate around 4,500 accredited guests, but only 450 of these guests, including members of the Mandela family, had been accredited to move to the actual burial site, where a traditional ceremony was conducted.
South African president Jacob Zuma said in the eulogy delivered at the state funeral that, “Today marks the end of an extraordinary journey that began 95 years ago. It is the end of 95 glorious years of a freedom fighter, a dedicated and humble servant of the people of South Africa, a fountain of wisdom, a pillar of strength and a beacon of hope to all those fighting for a just and equitable world order.
“We are truly honored to be part of the final journey of this great son of our country and the founding president of a free and democratic South Africa: Isithwalandwe Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.”
He also spoke of Mandela’s love for young people:
“You loved children dearly. Therefore, in your memory, South African children must grow up in a country that is not only politically free, but which is also free and safe from violence; free and safe from crime, free and safe from poverty, ignorance and disease, free and safe from indignity,” Zuma added.
Today, Monday, marks a century since the erection of the Union Buildings – and is also National Reconciliation Day there.
Zuma said that under Mandela’s leadership, the National Day of Reconciliation became a symbol of collective victory over a divided past.
“We made a conscious decision to work for national unity and reconciliation,” he urged.
He went on to say that, “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.”
Chief Ngangomhlaba Matanzima, a representative of Mandela’s family, was quoted as saying: “A great tree has fallen; he is now going home to rest with his forefathers. We thank them for lending us such an icon.”
Mandela’s funeral was attended by guests from at home and abroad – among them Britain’s Prince Charles and US television star, Oprah.