Pretoria - In Hammanskraal, on the outskirts of Pretoria, a statue of Nelson Mandela stands tall. Unbeknown to many, the statue is believed to be the first life-size memorial of the former president.
While the statue of the elder statesman in Sandton, Joburg, erected in 2004 is listed as South Africa’s first public statue of the Father of the Nation, Hammanskraal businessman and former ward councillor William Mahlangu begs to differ.
According to him their statue of the beloved Madiba was erected in 1999. The little information that can be tracked down about the statue bears out Mahlangu’s view. This means that this could possibly be the first public statue of the anti-apartheid icon.
It was reported that the statue was unveiled on June 12, 1999, in honour of heroes who sacrificed their lives for democracy, with Madiba being the most iconic hero.
According to Mahlangu, Hammanskraal was chosen as the location in an attempt to promote tourism in the area, an action he now believes failed dismally as a result of lack of advocacy from the relevant parties.
The statue was created by well known sculptor Phil Minnaar. Minnaar is renowned for his monumental works at Sol Kerzner’s Lost City, as well as other sculptures of famous South Africans and politicians. Regardless of the logistics around the date of erection of the statues, Hammanskraal residents say they are honoured to have the statue at one of the main entrances to their area.
According to them, it is their everyday reminder of how blessed South Africa is to have a man such as Tata Madiba in their midst, a man they want to hold on to for ever. “Every day, we walk past our leader and it makes us grateful, because we realise that it is because of him that we have what we have today. It is also a reminder for us to work hard and make a success of our future, because Madiba has opened a world of possibilities for us,” said 16-year-old Anna Moloisane, a pupil at Ntswane High School in the area.
According to another resident, the statue reminds them of the injustices suffered in the past and the way things have improved for them since the end of apartheid.
Hammanskraal residents are also resistant to the idea of letting go of Mandela.
Asked about their views on his latest admission to hospital, it is clear the thought of Madiba dying is not one many are prepared to accept.
Tshwane municipal employee George Rangoaga firmly believes Mandela should live for as long as possible.
“Why do people want to wish him dead? Yes, he is old, but that does not mean he must die. As long as God wants him here, he has a plan for him. We must pray for his recovery and ask God to help him.”
Steve Magongwa, as he walked past the statue, said: “We still need this old man.”
He believes that when Mandela dies, the face of the nation and the ANC will undergo drastic change.
“This man is an icon who has revolutionised not only South Africa, but the whole world. There is a lot of respect for what he stood for and what he fought for, but when he is gone, it might change. Our wish may be that he can live long on, but we have to realise he has done enough. We will miss him, he needs to rest, we know, but we are resistant in letting go.”
Mandela was admitted to a Pretoria hospital at the weekend for a recurring lung infection. The Presidency has said Madiba is in a serious but stable condition. This is the fourth time since December that he has been in hospital.
The Presidency has urged the nation to pray for Madiba and his family.