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Union Buildings declared a national heritage site

A statue of former president Nelson Mandela was also unveiled at the Reconciliation Day event.

Overhead view of the Union Buildings while former president Nelson Mandela was laying-in-state on 12 December 2013. Picture: GCIS.

PRETORIA - President Jacob Zuma on Monday declared the Union Buildings in Pretoria a national heritage site.

He was speaking at a Reconciliation Day event where a statue of former president Nelson Mandela was unveiled.

The massive Madiba statue was unveiled just a day after the former president was laid to rest in Qunu in the Eastern Cape.

Mandela died at his Johannesburg home on 5 December.

Zuma discussed the significance of the Union Buildings as the seat of the former oppressive white regime, but also the place where Mandela was inaugurated as the first democratically elected president.

"We have decided to declare the Union Buildings a national heritage site."

The president said the statue will forever remind South Africans of Madiba's towering vision, stature and his commitment to improving the quality of life of all citizens.

The nine-metre high bronze statue shows Madiba smiling with his arms stretched out to embrace the rainbow nation.

Zuma says this embodies Madiba's spirit of reconciliation.

"In many of the statues of Madiba, he's saying amandla. In this statue, his pose is different. He's opening his arms to embrace all South Africans."

Meanwhile, Mandela's grandson, Mandla, thanked all South Africans who helped Madiba complete his long walk to freedom.

He made the comments at the unveiling.

Mandla says Madiba showed true leadership by asking Helen Joseph to take him under her wing and educate him.

"All I had known as a nine-year-old was that prison was for people who had done wrong in society. I felt that he had ashamed our family. He wrote a letter to Helen Joseph [asking her to] educate me about the man he was."

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