The statue was unveiled outside the government complex in Pretoria on December 16, a day after his funeral.

The Department of Arts and Culture said it didn’t know why sculptors, Andre Prinsloo and Ruhan Janse van Vuuren, had added a rabbit.

“It is unfortunate that the sculptors, Mr Prinsloo and Mr van Vuuren chose to place an object in the statue without the knowledge of those who commissioned them,” said Minister of Arts and Culture, Paul Mashatile. “They have since apologised for this and for any offence that may have been given to those who felt their actions disrespected the memory and legacy of Tata Mandela. We accept their apology and that their intentions were honourable. However, considering the stature Madiba enjoyed here and abroad, a more appropriate artist signature would have been preferred.”

Earlier this week, South Africa’s Beeld newspaper reported the artists as saying they added the rabbit as a “trademark”.

Twitter users won’t hear of its removal and have started a campaign to save the rabbit with the hashtag #savetherabbit.

“I say keep the bunny rabbit in Mandela’s ear. These days we only have depressing news, we need some humor in our lives #SaveTheRabbit,” said  @wianesterhuizen.

The company contracted to create the statue, Koketso Growth, which worked with Prinsloo and van Vuuren on account of their expertise in casting bronze sculptures, described the prank as “regrettable”.

“It is regrettable that the artists chose this way of expressing their opinion about not signing the sculpture, and that they felt it should be kept secret from their clients, [the company] and the Department of Arts and Culture,” Koketso Growth CEO Dali Tambo said in a statement.

You might think we are hopping mad to have written this or astounded that it is even news – but it is. 

Image credit: Getty