Statue of Nelson Mandela Unveiled at Groot Drakenstein Correction Centre

On 27 August 2008, a statue of Nelson Mandela was unveiled at Groot Drakenstein Correction Centre ( ref Drakenstein Correction centre) between Paarl and Franshhoek on the R301 road, near Cape Town.

Formerly known as Victor Verster, this was where Mandela spent the last few years of his 27 years in jail in relative comfort, as he and other ANC stalwarts negotiated with the apartheid government on the terms of his release and the nature of the new South Africa. It stands on the very spot where Mandela took his first steps as a free man. Just outside the prison gates – the culmination of the Long Walk to Freedom – the title of Mandela's autobiography.

The Groot Drakenstein correctional facility (the former Victor Verster maximum security prison near Simondium, between Franschhoek and Paarl) is a working prison that was renamed in 2000. It is on the map chiefly because this was the last place in which Nelson Mandela was incarcerated and it was through these gates, and not those of Pollsmoor in Cape Town or from Robben Island, that Mandela walked to freedom in 1990.

Surprisingly, the prison looks something like a boys' school rather than a security prison. And its surrounds - it lies in amongst grape vines and undulating hills - is equally incongruous. There is a legend that describes how prisoners from Groot Drakenstein managed to escape on foot - the journey took a week - through the valley and over the mountains to Cape Town.

A larger than life-size bronze statue of Mandela was recently unveiled at Groot Drakenstein Prison. It is a beautiful statue showing Mandela with raised fist - a well recognised gesture of defiance, usually accompanied by the freedom slogan - amandla awethu, isiZulu or power to the people. It is an isolated, out of the way place in which to place such a statue, but the location has been deliberately chosen to stand in the very place where Mandela took his first steps outside of the prison as a free man.

The statue was commissioned from South African artist Jean Doyle by Tokyo Sexwale, a well known businessman who himself spent 13 years on Robben Island. The statue is a tribute to every person who made sacrifices in the fight for freedom.