At first, it was called Day of the Covenant, honoring a victory of the early Afrikaners, mainly descendents of Dutch settlers, over Zulu warriors in an 1838 clash that became known as the Battle of Blood River.
Some Afrikaners still mark the day today.
However, Dec. 16 is also the anniversary of the founding of Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) — the armed wing of the now ruling African National Congress, which Mandela founded.
After the all-race vote in 1994, the day was retained as a holiday and renamed.
“Former president Mandela is associated with the promotion of reconciliation which is why the day was chosen for the unveiling” of the statue, the government said.
The event had been planned long before Mandela’s death.
After a 10-day mourning period, the national flag was raised yesterday from its half-mast position, and was flying as normal.