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Pretoria - A nine-metre bronze-coated statue of former president Nelson Mandela with outstretched arms would occupy a central position at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, Arts Minister Paul Mashatile said on Thursday.
"The Mandela statue should be central... coming up from the (terraced) gardens (at the Union Buildings)," he said in Johannesburg.
Mashatile said there was a possibility that other statues already in place may need to be moved to accommodate the R8 million bronze.
"Everything at the Union Buildings is our heritage. Nothing is going to be destroyed or taken away," he said.
President Jacob Zuma would unveil the statue, made by sculptors Andre Prinsloo and Ruhan Jansen Van Vuuren supported by a team, on December 16 as part of the celebration for the buildings' 100 years of existence.
"To us this is an important event as Tata Madiba is the founding father of our democratic nation," Mashatile said.
"In addition, he remains an enduring symbol of our struggle for freedom, democracy, dignity and equality for all."
The statue would help to reclaim the Union Buildings to reflect the aspirations of all South Africans and help break its association with white minority rule.
Construction of the Union Buildings began in November 1910 and took 465 white workers and 800 black workers almost three years to build.
Work on the statue was already well underway. Smaller models and a portrait of Mandela were made first in order to capture his features, expression and pose for the final statue.
A polyutherine cast of the full scale statue was complete and it was now being cast in wax, before it is cast in bronze.
The statue would be transported from the Western Cape in four sections on a flat-bed truck.
It would be assembled on the lawns of the Union Buildings, away from the public gaze, and needed to be complete by December 9 to be ready for unveiling on Reconciliation Day.
Prinsloo said the project had been a life-long dream.
He spoke about the difficulties of capturing Mandela's image and decisions that had to be made on the pose, expression, and age at which the statue would depict Mandela.
"We decided we would give him a smile," Prinsloo said.
The statue would capture Mandela as he looked about 10 years after his election as South Africa's first democratic president.
Prinsloo demonstrated the pose the statue would assume, arms outstretched and one foot slightly forward.
The pose intended to convey "how he embraces the nation", Prinsloo said.
Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory chief executive Sello Hatang said the statue represented more than Mandela as an individual.
"...The statue does not represent just Mandela, but the collective behind the man."
Mandela himself had demonstrated his humility in the past when works of art were commissioned to honour him, Hatang said.
Mashatile said Mandela stamps and coins would also be launched in the near future.
"The mounting of Tata Madiba's statue at the Union Buildings is part of our ongoing work to develop new symbols and monuments that reflect our collective aspirations as South Africans and the new values we stand for."
He said it was fitting that the statue would be in place for South Africa's 20th anniversary of freedom and democracy next year.
A National Heritage Monument would be constructed in Tshwane to commemorate other icons of South Africa's history.
"The monument will feature a procession of more than four hundred life size bronze statues of various leaders who contributed in shaping the kind of society we are today; leaders who left a legacy worth preserving for current and future generations."
Mashatile extended his good wishes to Mandela, who is recuperating at his home in Houghton, near the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory where the press briefing was held.
Thursday marked the 26th day since Mandela was discharged from a Pretoria hospital, where he spent nearly three months being treated for a recurring lung infection.
President Jacob Zuma said in a speech on Wednesday that Mandela was responding to treatment while convalescing at his Houghton home.