Attended by large crowds and graced by a gospel choir and some pomp and circumstance, a statue of Nelson Mandela was unveiled today in London, at Parliament Square, alongside those of Jan Smuts, Winston Churchill, Benjamin Disraeli and Abraham Lincoln.
The ceremony was introduced by Lord Attenborough, trustee of the Mandela Statue Fund and perhaps best known as director of the highly acclaimed film Cry Freedom, based on the life of Steve Biko and the experiences of the late South African anti-apartheid activist Donald Woods, who had the original idea for the statue.
On the occasion, PM Gordon Brown referred to Mandela as “the most inspiring and greatest leader of our generation” who would be “forever remembered as the man who symbolised the end of Apartheid in South Africa”, adding “from this day forward, this statue will stand here, in sight of this ancient forum of democracy to commemorate and celebrate for the ages triumph in the greatest of causes. This statue is a beacon of hope."
In his speech, Mandela recalled how, during a visit to London with the late Oliver Tambo 45 years ago, "we half-joked that we hoped one day a statue of a black person would be erected here alongside that of General Smuts" and stated: "Though this statue is of one man, it should in actual fact symbolise all those who have resisted oppression, especially in my country. The history of the struggle in South Africa is rich with the story of heroes and heroines; some of them leaders, some of them followers: all of them deserve to be remembered."