Pretoria - Animal rights group Peta wants to adopt the bronze rabbit once it is removed from a statue of former president Nelson Mandela, Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile said on Thursday.
“The group intends to use the miniature statue to highlight the plight of billions of rabbits and other animals who are slaughtered for their skins, used in forced labour or kept in chains and who are innocent but imprisoned and denied the chance to be free,” he said in a statement.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) wrote to Mashatile asking that the rabbit be donated to the group.
Peta associate director Mimi Bekhechi wrote in the letter: “As we all know, Mandela was a great man who risked his life in order to advocate for the freedom of others.
“Mandela cared about cruelty to animals. He was a patron of the National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.... We would be honoured to use the bronze rabbit, the same animal who proudly leaps across Peta's logo, to honour Mandela's vision of a more peaceful, kinder world.”
Earlier this week, the sculptors of the newly erected statue of Mandela at the Union Buildings in Pretoria apologised for secretly adding a rabbit to their work. The item was placed in an ear of the statue's head.
The department of arts and culture said it accepted their apology and that their intentions were honourable.
Department spokesman Josias Pila said a more appropriate artist signature would have been preferred, and that the department was considering how to retain the sculpture's integrity with damaging it.
Andre Prinsloo and Ruhan Janse van Vuuren, who sculpted the nine metre bronze-plated statue, have said the rabbit was a “small trademark” of their work, as the department had not allowed them to engrave their signatures on the statue's trousers.
Dali Tambo, CEO of Koketso Growth, the company contracted to create the figure, said on Wednesday that the addition of the rabbit was regrettable.
Tambo said that after an agreement between the company and the government's “statue steering committee”, the artists were instructed that no marks, including signatures, would be engraved on the surface of the bronze statue.
The names of the artists would be printed on plaques, which were yet to be installed in the area surrounding the figure.
The statue was unveiled by President Jacob Zuma on December 16, the day after Mandela's funeral, as part of the annual celebrations of Reconciliation Day and the commemoration of the centenary of the Union Buildings.