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Madiba statue towers over SA embassy in US

September 26, 2013
In The News

A three-metre tall statue of former President Nelson Mandela now adorns the main entrance to South Africa's Embassy in Washington.

Unveiled by a host of dignitaries, among them International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana Mashabane, ANC Chairperson Baleka Mbete and leaders from the Free South Africa Movement in the United States, Madiba's likeness now stands as a symbol of freedom outside a building once used to justify the Apartheid system.

Hundreds waited for hours to share the moment of unveiling of the statue which shows Madiba, fist raised as it was when he proudly walked out of Victor Verster Prison a free man in 1990.

The Embassy itself has been officially opened after an extensive renovation.

South Africa's Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool said:  "We celebrate the exorcism of this building, we exorcise this building where Apartheid was justified for so many decades, we exorcise attempts from this building to buy constructive engagement and to invest in it, we exorcise from this building where racism that saught to legitimate itself from the segregation that you too suffered. However, in a true South African spirit, our exorcism is not destructive, it is a cleansing, it is a healing, it is the ability to combine the best of the old with the best of the new."

Madiba's daughter Zindzi was on hand to represent the Mandela family and graciously addressed what was on everyone's mind.

"I know everybody just worries about how he truly is, what is propaganda, what is being hidden from you, this man is a fighter as you can see from that raised fist over there, he's not going anywhere anytime soon, he's determined to be with us."

Nkoana Mashabane said the statue was a small gesture of thanks to the people of the United States for their support during the country's darkest hours.

"When we entered the Union buildings with other leaders in 1994, the task of eradicating the legacy of apartheid seemed insurmountable, I've had many quotations of the words of our fore bearer, the father of our nation, but the one that sustains many of us today is, he always said to us and continues to say wherever he is sitting – it always seems impossible until it is done."

Many activists in the audience were arrested for the protests inside and outside the Embassy, among them Randall Robinson, who founded the Free South Africa Movement and Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who pushed through game-changing legislation instituting sanctions against the Apartheid regime.

"It was here that I and so many of my friends that I see in the audience today, rallied and protested on this sidewalk in front of this place, it was here that we were arrested and we were taken to jail, it was here, led by the Free SA Movement and my dear friend Randall Robinson that we learned courage… we learned so much about courage. As a matter of fact when we were arrested and taken to jail, we asked them to keep us in jail, that we didn't want to be released because we wanted to be like Nelson Mandela, we wanted to show courage," said Waters.