Mogomotsi Mogodiri, spokesman for the Department of Arts and Culture, said sculptors Andre Prinsloo and Ruhan Janse van Vuuren apologized to the government and Mandela's family for carving a rabbit inside the bronze statue's ear prior to its unveiling Dec. 16, the day after Mandela was buried, the BBC reported Wednesday.
The statue was installed at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
"Discussions are ongoing about when the rabbit will be removed. Government wants it removed as soon as possible to restore dignity back to the statue," Mogodiri said.
Prinsloo and van Vuuren told the Beeld newspaper the rabbit was intended as a substitute for the signatures officials would not let them put on the statue's trousers. They said they chose a rabbit to represent the haste with which they had to work on the statue, as the Afrikaans word "haas" means both rabbit and haste.
Prinsloo said the rabbit is a "small symbol" and went unnoticed for weeks.
"You need a long lens or binoculars to see it," he said. "During the molding process a lot of people had seen the statue up close and nobody noticed it."
Mandela died Dec. 5 at the age of 95 following a battle with a recurring lung infection.