A figure of former prime minister James Barry Hertzog was moved to a new spot and replaced with a giant bronze-plated Nelson Mandela statue at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Monday.
The removal of Hertzog's statue was done after thorough consultations, President Jacob Zuma said at the annual Reconciliation Day celebrations in Pretoria.
"Compatriots, the site of the statue of our founding president had previously housed the statue of former Prime Minister James Barry Hertzog, who led the white government from 1924-1939," said Zuma.
"Following an exhaustive consultation process, and in the spirit of reconciliation that our country has become renowned for, 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."
He expressed gratitude to the Hertzog family "for their understanding and co-operation".
The towering Madiba statue depicts a smiling Mandela standing nine-metres high, looking out over and ready to embrace the city of Pretoria with outstretched arms.
The unveiling by Zuma comes a day after the former president was buried in Qunu.
"We are happy that we are here. You will notice that in all the statues that have been made of Madiba, he is raising his fist and at times stretching it. That derives from the slogan of the ANC," Zuma said.
"This one is different from many. He is stretching out his hands. He is embracing the whole nation. You shouldn't say this is not Madiba because we know him with his one [raised] hand."
The R8-million statue was created by South African sculptors Andre Prinsloo and Ruhan Janse van Vuuren. It was close to the Union Buildings' lawns, overlooking Arcadia.
Zuma said the Mandela statue was a constant reminder for the nation to maintain Madiba's values of unity, reconciliation, compassion and ubuntu.
“The statue will forever remind us 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,” he said.
Day of Reconciliation
Zuma said it also reminded South Africans about how far they had come in a few years.
“The glaring reality is that before 1994, there would have been no statue of Madiba at the Union Buildings.
"Thus, when we look at this statue of Madiba, and recall his selfless sacrifice, let us remember that freedom in our country did not come free.”
The Day of Reconciliation also marked the centenary of the Union Buildings.
Zuma announced that the seat of government had been added to the list of national heritage sites.
"As we celebrate 100 years of the Union Buildings today, we do so satisfied and happy that this seat of government is now not only rich in terms of its aesthetic beauty only," he said.
"It is also rich in moral value and symbolism as well. Given its growing national importance, we have decided to declare the Union Buildings a national heritage site. It had all along been a provincial heritage site."
Mandela died at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, aged 95, on December 5. – Sapa