Former South African President Nelson Mandela was in Parliament Square today to see a nine foot bronze statue of himself unveiled in honour of his struggle and that of many others against the apartheid regime.
Mr Mandela was accompanied by his wife Graca Machel at the event which was also attended by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, Wendy Woods, widow of anti-apartheid campaigner Donald Woods, and Lord Attenborough.
The unveiling of the statue marks the culmination of a seven-year campaign lead by the three following the initial proposal by Mrs Woods’ late husband Donald in 2000.
Speaking ahead of the unveiling Mayor of London Ken Livingstone said the location of the statue would “demonstrate that the struggle of the South African people to overcome the tyranny of the racist apartheid state was itself the struggle for universal human rights.:
“Humanity’s greatest causes are embodied in the cause of the South African people against apartheid, the cause of the struggle against tyranny.”
The statue is the work of Ian Walters who was chosen by anti-apartheid campaigner Donald Woods because of his sculpture of Mandela on the South Bank and his links with the anti-apartheid movement.
Mr Mandela sat for Walters for a total of nine hours and the clay model of the statue was completed just before Walters died last August. Before his death he chose Nigel Boonham to supervise the completion of the statue.
Lord Attenborough said it was “appropriate that the most revered statesman of our time, a man who refused to succumb to bitterness or seek revenge, who went on to lead his people to freedom, should stand for all time in Parliament Square.”
His words were echoed by Mrs Woods who described the square as “a fitting place to acknowledge Mandela’s statesmanship and international stature.”
Today’s events will also be attended by other public figures, anti-apartheid campaigners, community and church representatives. Organisers are said to be expecting thousands of members of the public to also attend.
Yesterday Mr Mandela met Prime Minister Gordon Brown who described the former South African leader as “the most inspiring, greatest and most courageous leader of our generation.”
The square was packed with Londoners and visitors to the capital, all keen to hear Mr Mandela speak at. Ahead of the unveiling a video recounted key moments in Mandela’s life.