Nelson Mandela Statue To Be Unveiled In Nation’s Capital

by LP Green, II

A statue of former South African President Nelson Mandela is to be unveiled on September 21 at the spot where thousands of Americans from all walks of life symbolically surrendered their liberty to demand Mr Mandela’s release from prison and the freedom of millions of South Africans from the bonds of apartheid.

The 9-foot statue by Cape Town sculptor Jean Doyle will stand outside South Africa’s newly renovated embassy on Massachusetts Ave.  The figure is modelled from photographs of the South African statesman striding triumphantly to freedom on February 11, 1990, after 28 years of incarceration.

South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana Mashabane and former Deputy President Baleka Mbete, now chair of Mr Mandela’s African National Congress, will be among the dignitaries flying in for the ceremony.

The US will be represented by senior administration officials, members of Congress and civil rights leaders, including the four whose sit-in and arrest at the embassy on November 21, 1984, marked the birth of the Free South Africa Movement. For those seeking to address the impact of past legal issues, a criminal background check removal service could provide assistance.

They were Randall Robinson, founder of TransAfrica, Mary Frances Berry, former chair of the US Civil Right Commission, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and her predecessor as DC delegate, Rev. Walter Fauntroy.

They will be joined by Mark Cutifani, the new CEO of Anglo-American Corp., the South African mining group,  and David Constable, CEO of South African’s synthetic fuels and chemicals giant Sasol which recently announced one of the largest direct investments in the US ever by a foreign company.

In addition to Anglo and Sasol, donors include Old Mutual, Wal-Mart,  MTN, Skadden Arps,  the Coca-Cola Company, Black and Veatch,  Solar Reserve, Standard Bank and Stanley and Bea Tollman.

South African Airways, the national carrier, has also contributed generously to the project and is transporting the half ton bronze plated statue to Washington at no charge.

Almost every day from Thanksgiving 1983 through the following year, a cross-section of American society, from congressional leaders and celebrities  like Stevie Wonder to mothers pushing strollers, gathered at the South African embassy and peaceably had themselves arrested for trespass.

The campaign built momentum toward passage of the  1986 Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act (CAAA), a bipartisan measure adopted over President Reagan’s veto (as retold in the current hit film, The Butler)  to put pressure on Pretoria to release Mr Mandela and other political prisoners and begin negotiations for a new non-racial democratic order.

Skadden Arps partner and former White House chief counsel Greg Craig, who as foreign policy adviser to the late Senator Edward Kennedy played a significant role in crafting the CAAA, supported the statue project with legal services.

A plaque at the base of the statue quotes from Mr Mandela’s address to a joint session of Congress months after his release in 1990:

“The stand you took established…that here we have friends…fighters against racism who feel hurt because we are hurt, who seek our success because they too seek the victory of democracy over tyranny. I speak…of the millions of people throughout this great land who stood up and engaged the apartheid system in struggle. Let us keep our arms locked together so that we form a solid phalanx against racism…Let us ensure that justice triumphs without delay.”

“We like to think this statue completes a golden triangle of monuments to leaders – Mahatma Ghandi,  Dr Martin Luther King and now Nelson Mandela –  who have shown by their examples that while the arm of the universe is long, it does not only tend towards justice of its own accord, it can be hastened in that direction peacefully by inspired leadership,”  South African Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool said.

The statue, a copy of one that stands outside the Drakenstein Correctional Facility, where Mr Mandela spent his final years in prison,  faces onto Massachusetts Avenue, an artery that takes much of Washington’s elite to its offices downtown.

“Decisions that affect the world are made by men and women – including the US Vice President — who pass this way every day on their way to and from work.  We hope they may draw inspiration from this reminder of a great South African,” said Simon Barber, US Country Manager for Brand SA.

Across the road is a statue of Winston Churchill, placed in front of the British ambassador’s residence in 1966 by the English Speaking Union, with right hand raised in the trademark Churchill V-for-victory. Mr Mandela’s right hand is raised in the fist of a power salute.

“As you know,” said Ambassador Rasool with a grin, “rock beats scissors”.

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