Statue of Mandela unveiled at South African embassy

September 21, 2013

A triumphant statue of Nelson Mandela was unveiled Saturday outside the South African Embassy in Northwest Washington.

 The statue resembles Mandela’s pose, his right arm extended into a fist above his head, upon his release from 27 years of incarceration during the fight against South African apartheid.

 Mandela “raised his fist in triumph,” the triumph of justice, said South African Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool. The unveiling of the statue also marks “the exorcism of this building,” he added, referring to the renovated embassy.

 The statue is at the site of daily demonstrations against apartheid led by Randall Robinson,the noted author and activist. He, Del. Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D), civil rights activist Mary Frances Berry, and former D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy (D) went to the embassy on November 21, 1984 to speak with the ambassador at the time about the oppressed conditions of South Africa’s black majority.

“We entered this building nearly 29 years ago,” Robinson said, with the belief that the struggles for justice in the United States and South Africa were inextricably “bound up together.”


Well wishers gather at the unveiling of a statue of Nelson Mandela at the South African Embassy in Washington. (Simon Barber/for The Washington Post)

At one point, Robinson recalled in his remarks, Norton left the meeting to speak with those waiting outside. Then the others announced they were not leaving until the government began to dismantle apartheid and released political prisoners, starting with Mandela.

They did leave, but under arrest and in handcuffs.

Their arrests were followed by more than 4,000 others, Robinson said, as the protests continued day after day, month after month.

Referring the health of her 95-year-old father, who recently was hospitalized, Zindzi Mandela said “this man is a fighter. He’s not going anywhere anytime soon.”

Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about the federal workplace that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012.
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