Johannesburg - A total of 94 white doves were released skywards on Thursday, signifying the life and times of Nelson Mandela.
The ceremony was the unveiling of the elder statesman’s statue in Bloemfontein on Thursday.
President Jacob Zuma released an additional six doves to mark the centenary celebrations of the ANC.
The 8m-tall statue of Mandela, which has a clenched fist in the air, faces in the direction of the Waaihoek Methodist Church, where the ANC was founded 100 years ago. The statue is on the top of Naval Hill.
Zuma said Mandela’s statue was a tribute to the tortuous path that South Africans had travelled from oppression, through the Struggle for liberation, to democracy in 1994.
“It should, true to Madiba’s values, forever be a symbol of our reconciliation and tolerance as a nation. It is also part of efforts to build new symbols of our democratic nation, symbols that make it possible for us as South Africans to celebrate our diversity, our common heritage and our shared future,” said Zuma.
Mandela had dedicated his life, guided by the ANC, to lead South Africans out of oppression, discrimination and economic suffering, he added.
Mandela’s family members did not attend the event, but they apologised, saying they were at Mandela’s side as he is being treated for a lung infection at a Pretoria hospital.
Zuma described Mandela as a selfless, humble and principled leader.
“Up to this day, we continue to draw lessons from the life of Tata Mandela and his conduct and dedication to our struggle for national liberation,” he said.
Zuma, who seeks re-election at the ANC’s conference that starts this Sunday in Mangaung, said Mandela’s statue was a reminder of the founding of the ANC in 1912.
He lauded businessman Freddy Kenny for donating the statue.