Union Buildings declared National Heritage site

The Union Buildings were on Monday 16 December declared a national heritage site by President Jacob Zuma.

The President and Cabinet members, along with hundreds of South Africans, gathered at the Southern Lawns of the Union Buildings to commemorate National Reconciliation Day which is held each year on 16 December as well as the Union Buildings’ centenary.

Zuma had earlier in the day unveiled a giant bronze statue of the late former President Nelson Mandela.

“Giving its growing national importance, we have decided to declare the Union Buildings a national heritage site. By declaring the Union Buildings as a national heritage site, we are acknowledging its historic significance and affirming its value as one of the sites that houses our nation’s heritage.

“We are doing this as part of our ongoing work to write a new and inclusive narrative for our country, while we acknowledge the past, we also emphasise that we are now one nation and that our national symbols need to reflect that unity in diversity,” the President said in his address.

He said this would also create the necessary framework to allow the country to preserve and promote the history and heritage that is at the Union Buildings.

The Union Buildings, which is the seat of government, had previously been a provincial heritage site.

Beyond political meaning, the Union Buildings precinct also has immense social value. During weekends many newly-wed couples come to the gardens to take pictures for posterity. The Union Buildings also attracts busloads of tourists on a daily basis.

It has become a people-centred precinct, said the President.

Madiba statue

Zuma said government had decided to commemorate National Reconciliation Day by unveiling a 9-metre tall statue of Madiba. The statue was constructed with Madiba having outstretched arms and his characteristic smile.

Under Madiba’s leadership, the National Day of Reconciliation became a symbol of a collective victory over the divided past of the nation.

“We made a conscious decision to work for national unity and reconciliation. It is, of great historical significance that we are marking National Reconciliation Day 2013 by officially unveiling the 9-metre statue of Madiba, the man who encouraged us to look beyond our differences and become one nation, united in our diversity,” he said.

Through National Reconciliation Day, the nation was recommitting itself to peace, forgiveness, tolerance and reconciliation. These values were the hallmarks of the Presidency of Madiba.

The site of the statue of Madiba had previously housed the statue of former Prime Minister James Barry Hertzog, who led the white government from 1924-1939.

Following an exhaustive consultation process, and in the spirit of reconciliation, the representatives of Hertzog agreed that his statue be relocated to another spot in the Union Buildings in order to make way for Madiba’s statue.

“We laid Madiba to rest in Qunu only yesterday, Sunday. Today, he rises majestically at the seat of government, as a symbol of peace, reconciliation, unity and progress.

“This new Madiba monument will not merely enhance the attraction and gravitas of the Union Buildings as a national heritage site. It will also remind the nation daily about the values of unity, reconciliation, compassion and Ubuntu,” he said.

Zuma said the statue will forever remind the nation of Madiba’s towering vision and stature. “It will remind us of his commitment, his leadership and his dedication to the struggle against apartheid.

“It will forever remind us of his commitment to an improved quality of life for all. It will also remind us of how far we have come as a nation in just a few years. The glaring reality is that before 1994, there would have been no statue of Madiba at the Union Buildings,” he said.

The President said in his humility, Madiba left it to the South African people to celebrate his life and legacy and to decide how he should be remembered.

The statue was designed by two sculptures, Andre Prinsloo and Ruhan Janse van Vuuren.

Speaking to SAnews, Prinsloo said: “It took us three weeks to complete constructing the giant statue with our complementary team of 35 workers. I feel honoured to have been asked to work on a statue of Madiba who have actually gone through a lot during his lifetime.

“After serving 27 years in prison, Madiba walk out smiling and fully embracing everyone including those who had locked him up in jail. He was not angry and never thought retaliating, so a nation, I think this statue must always remind us to embrace each other.”-SAnews.gov.zaUnion Buildings

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