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Nelson Mandela statue unveiled

Source ITN

Updated on 29 August 2007

A 9ft bronze statue of former South African president Nelson Mandela has been unveiled opposite the Houses of Parliament.

Mr Mandela, 89, and his wife Graca Machel attended the unveiling ceremony in Parliament Square together with Prime Minister Gordon Brown and London Mayor Ken Livingstone.

A host of dignitaries attended the event, including director Lord Attenborough whose film Cry Freedom highlighted the injustices of the apartheid era.

Later, the Queen will be making Mr Mandela's wife a Dame for her work tackling poverty in Mozambique.

The Prime Minister led the tributes to Mr Mandela, comparing his efforts to those of Abraham Lincoln and Sir Winston Churchill, whose statues already stand in Parliament Square.

He likened Mr Mandela's struggle against apartheid and poverty to Lincoln's efforts to tackle slavery and Churchill's battle against fascism.

Mr Brown called the statue, by the late Ian Walters, a "beacon of hope that signals to anyone suffering injustice anywhere that their suffering will not last for ever, will never be in vain, and will be overcome".

The Prime Minister said that Britain and other western countries must now honour the work of Mr Mandela by sending every child in Africa to school and eradicating killer diseases affecting children on the continent.

A beaming Mr Mandela walked unsteadily on to the stage to a rapturous reception from the crowd in Parliament Square.

After the unveiling, he was escorted to the podium by Mr Brown, to whom he wished "wisdom and strength" as leader of the UK.

Mr Mandela told the crowd: "It's an honour for us to be with you on the occasion of the unveiling of this statue today. We never dreamed we would all be here today.

"Though this statue is of one man, it should in actual fact symbolise all those who have resisted oppression, especially in my country."

Mr Mandela added that he and a fellow anti-apartheid leader had wished for this day after a visit to Britain in the 1970s.

"When Oliver Tambo visited Westminster Abbey and Parliament Square... we half joked that one day a statue of a black person would be erected here."

On Tuesday, Mr Brown invited Mr Mandela to Number 10 for private talks and called him the "most inspiring, greatest and most courageous leader of our generation".

Mr Livingstone said the statue reflected Mr Mandela's significance on the world stage.

He said: "Nelson Mandela's struggle against apartheid symbolised both the fight against racist tyranny and the universal struggle for human rights.

"The statue underlines the warm friendship between Nelson Mandela and the people of London.

"The placing of the statue in one of our most famous squares is an important moment reflecting Nelson Mandela's significance as a world statesman and one of the key political figures of our time."

The sculpture was originally to have stood in Trafalgar Square, but planning permission was refused by Westminster City Council and the Parliament Square site was chosen instead.

© Independent Television News Limited 2007. All rights reserved.

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