Govt demands rabbit in Mandela statue's ear is removed

A bronze rabbit placed inside the ear of a large statue of Nelson Mandela has sparked outrage from the South African government who have called for the hare to be removed.

The statue of Nelson Mandela was unveiled outside the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Credit: REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

The government said it wanted the creature to be removed from the statue - which was unveiled in Pretoria 11 days after the anti-apartheid leader's death - to "restore integrity" to the 30 foot sculpture.

Artists Ruhan Janse van Vuuren and Andre Prinsloo said they added the animal as a personal stamp after the authorities stopped them from engraving their signatures on the sculpture.

The hare was also a nod to the tight deadline the sculptors faced, with the Afrikaans word for rabbit - "haas" - also meaning haste.

A spokesman for the Department of Arts and Culture said the animal "undermined what we erected the statue for" and denied that Madiba, who was known for his sense of humour, might have found the rabbit funny.

The artists have apologised for adding the hare.