Mandela’s eldest daughter, Makaziwe Mandela, representing the family said, “This is not only a testimony to Madiba but to what South Africa was capable of producing.”
Ramaphosa told a packed hallway of UN dignitaries, “President Mandela firmly believed that the United Nations was the most valuable and effective instrument for the advancement of peace, development and equality that humanity conceived. We trust that this statue will remain a constant affirmation of South Africa’s commitment to a better world for all.”
The statue of Mandela with his outstretched arms will be permanently located in the UN visitors’ centre as a permanent reminder of South Africa’s liberation icon. Behind the applause of South African officials was a recognition of the long road travelled in which the UN General Assembly adopted countless resolutions against the crime of apartheid over many decades, creating a wall of solidarity behind the anti-apartheid movement.
The historic unveiling of the statue was followed by a day-long Nelson Mandela Peace Summit, convened by the president of the UN General Assembly. The summit was an opportunity for UN members to rally behind peace efforts in Africa and other global hot spots.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres referred to Mandela as one of humanity’s great leaders, hailing him as an outstanding man and global citizen. Ramaphosa expressed the hope that the summit would signal a new dawn in honour of one of the greatest exemplars of humanity.
Ramaphosa made specific reference to Mandela’s last address to the UN when he had said, “Why do they need weapons of mass destruction anyway?” - to which no satisfactory answer has yet been given.
“There is no justification for the existence of weapons with the potential to extinguish life on this planet,” Ramaphosa told heads of state and ministers at the assembly.
Mandela’s widow, Graça Machel, also addressed the auspicious gathering noting that Madiba provides an opportunity to reflect on the very raison d'être of the UN.
“The UN would be well served to revisit the vision of its founders and emulate Mandela as a servant-leader who believed no sacrifice was too great.
“We have seen protracted conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Palestine, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Myanmar for far too long.
"We now need bold unprecedented action. Ego is fuelling conflict, as well as greedy resource acquisition and the arms industry,” Machel said.
A total of 158 speakers addressed the summit, which 44 heads of state attended.
A political declaration was adopted as an outcome of the summit, committing member states to reinvigorate efforts to fulfil their commitments to international peace and security. The declaration called on world leaders to uphold Madiba’s ideals, principles and values.
After the summit, Ramaphosa spoke at a high-level UN Private Sector Forum of 160 chief executives, convened by the UN secretary-general. Also gracing the event were high-profile celebrities like actor Michael Douglas. The chief executives of companies like Microsoft and Unilever announced initiatives to advance peace.
The president then moved on to address the esteemed Council on Foreign Relations on South Africa’s domestic and foreign policy priorities in the afternoon. Ramaphosa ended the day by hosting a glittering evening reception at the UN for heads of state and government, foreign ministers, senior UN officials and members of civil society and businesses linked to South Africa in honour of Mandela.