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Mandela Statue Unveiled in London


A three-meter bronze statue of former South African President Nelson Mandela was unveiled in London Wednesday to commemorate his struggle against apartheid. Tendai Maphosa has more in this report for VOA.

The unveiling ceremony was held on Parliament Square where Nelson Mandela's statue will join other notable leaders as Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln who also resisted oppression.

Mr. Mandela, 89, made his way to the platform, leaning on the arm of his wife, Graca Machel. Despite his frail appearance, he spoke very clearly.

"Though this statue is of one man is of one man it should in actual fact symbolize all those who have resisted oppression especially in my country," said Mr. Mandela. "The history of the struggle in South Africa is rich with the stories of heroes and heroines some of them leaders, some of them followers all of them deserve to be remembered."

London Mayor Ken Livingstone, anti-apartheid campaigners and community leaders also attended the ceremony outside Britain's Parliament, close to Westminster Abbey, along with a gospel choir and 40 dancers in carnival costume.

Before unveiling the statue British Prime Minister Gordon Brown paid a moving tribute to Mr. Mandela.

"He is a man whose belief in the future was so powerful not even twenty-seven years behind bars and barbed wire could destroy his dream and his demand that by fighting apartheid from his prison cell millions today could be and are free," said Mr. Brown.

Film director Richard Attenborough, a trustee of the Mandela Statue Fund, introduced Mr. Mandela at the unveiling. He spoke of the the bravery of the late Donald Woods, a South African journalist who was a friend of the late anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko whose idea it was for the Mandela statue.

"Donald was a very courageous man, He fled his country with his wife Wendy and there five children and came here as a refugee, thrown out by the apartheid system. He would have given anything to be here today because it was his concept," he said.

Mandela described how on a visit to Westminster in 1962 with his late comrade in the struggle Oliver Tambo they had half jokingly hoped that one day a statue of a black person would be erected there alongside that of Jan Smuts, a former South African prime minister. That dream became reality today.

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