Mandela Humbled

On the South Bank

Donald Wood, the anti-apartheid activist would be very proud.  In 2000 his wife started the campaign to get a statue of Nelson Mandela erected in London.Ian Walters was chosen by Donald Wood,  to undertake this project, as he was impressed with his work of the statute of Mandela in the South Bank Centre. Walters was also closely linked with the anti-apartheid movement.

In 2001 Walters went to Mandela’s home in Qunu in the Eastern Cape, South Africa where he spent 9 hours preparing for the statue. He died soon after completing the clay model in 2006, but appointed Nigel Boonham to oversee the completion of the project.

In 2001 Woods died of cancer and was sadly not present in 2007 when the nine-foot statue was finally unveiled in Parliament Square to stand alongside Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and Jan Smuts (the former South African statesman).

Special guest at the unveiling, Nelson Mandela, said he was humbled at being honoured with this statue. He felt it was also important to remember that although the statue was of one man, it represents all those who “resist oppression” especially in South Africa.

Mandela added, “The history of struggle in South Africa is rich with the stories of heroes and heroines, some of them leaders, some of them followers,” he said. “All of them deserve to be remembered.”

Mr Mandela reminisced, “When Oliver Tambo and I visited Westminster Abbey and Parliament Square in 1962, we half-joked that we hoped that one day a statue of a black person would be erected here alongside General Smuts.

Oliver would have been proud today.”

Dawn Denton©



  1. A little tit-bit about Jan Smuts. Back in 1947 when I was 9 years old, we were in Cape Town on holiday. The name Jan Smuts was familiar to me as I had often heard it mentioned at home during the WW2 years. Well, my father’s desire was to visit the parliament and we were ushered into a hearing. We were up in the gallery with all the spectators, and by leaning a bit forward I could see Jan Smuts. My heart throbbed: I was actually seeing a real famous person! There he was, this famous man with his white goatee beard, arms crossed across his chest and his head nodding to one side as he took a nap, oblivious to all the serious (and maybe important) speech-making around him!

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