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'Beacon of hope' Mandela's statue

By Nicholas Glass

Updated on 29 August 2007

Nelson Mandela attends the unveiling of a statue in his honour outside the Houses of Parliament in London.

Calling him a "beacon of hope... to anyone suffering injustice", Gordon Brown has led the tributes to Nelson Mandela this morning as a statue of the Nobel Peace Prize winner was unveiled outside the Houses of Parliament.

The former South African president was in London to see his statue join those of Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln in Parliament Square.

It has only taken 20 years. In 1987 the then British prime minister called his organisation "terrorists".

Today's British prime minister lead the tributes as his statue was unveiled in Parliament Square.

Visiting Parliament Square in 1962, Mandela jokingly wondered to Oliver Tambo whether one day they might have a statue there.

But even the statue has taken a long road. The plans were announced six years ago.

Mr Mandela sat for the sculptor Ian Walters. But plans to site the work in Trafalgar Square, the focus of anti-apartheid demonstrations in Britain, were stymied by the planning process.

By the time the Parliament Square site was agreed, Ian Walters himself had succumbed to cancer.

His 89-year-old subject looked a little frail but clearly delighted.

There is another irony in the siting of this statue. In 1962 Mandela visited this square with his comrade Oliver Tambo.

Seeing the statue of the South African leader Jan Smuts, he jokingly wondered if one day they might have a statue there.

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