Pretoria: Without the participation of the international community, it would have been difficult to achieve democracy in South Africa, President Jacob Zuma said on Friday. “We remain forever grateful to the world wide anti-apartheid movement which in many ways demonstrated solidarity to the people of South Africa,” he said, during the awarding of the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo to eminent foreign nationals.
South Africa honoured these international patriots who helped the country during the struggle for liberation and expressed “indebtedness” to all of them, Zuma said. Jamaican civil rights activist Percival Noel James Patterson, former Nigerian Foreign Minister Professor Ibrahim Gambari and Cuban rights activist Jorge Risquet Valdes Salda¤a, were among those honoured at the ceremony held at the Sefako Makgato Presidential Guest House.
The event was part of honouring the legacy of national hero and icon, former ANC President Oliver Reginald Tambo, after whom the National Order is named. The Order is awarded to foreign nationals and other foreign dignitaries for friendship shown to South Africa and its people. The Presidency this week described it as an Order of “peace, co-operation and active expression of solidarity and support”. Paterson was the only recipient to receive the order in gold while others were silver.
On Friday, Zuma said it had only been through the actions of nations and individuals “who took resolute moral stance” against apartheid that South Africa could today be a free country.
In Africa he singled out the Organisation of African Union, now the AU, for “narrowing its key goals” to the liberation of the colonialised and oppressed countries. “In Tambo’s memory, we express our indebtedness to our Swedish and Nordic friends for their unrelenting financial and other support to the liberation movements during those hard times including their stance against Portugal’s colonial policy.”
A passionate opponent of apartheid, Patterson was an ardent proponent of South Africa’s liberation movement. In 1987, during the time when PJ Patterson was the chairman of the PNP and Michael Manley the President of the PNP, the ANC was invited to attend the PNP’s Founder`s Day banquet celebrating the 15th anniversary of the independence of Jamaica. OR Tambo addressed the PNP Founders Day in Kingston, Jamaica on 4 July 1987.
Salda¤a was the head of Practice Lumumba Internationalist Battalion in Brazzaville, Congo between 1965 and 1967. He was Cuban Minister of Labour from 1967 to 1973 and has been a member of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party since its establishment in 1965 as well as a member of the Central Committee Secretariat between 1973 and 1990.
He was responsible for the Cuban Civil Mission in Angola, He presided over the Cuban delegation attending the Four-party meetings (Angola-Cuban-South Africa-United States).
Other recipients included Toshio Akiniwa of Japan, who in 1985, participated in the organising of a protest demonstration at the General Consular Office of South Africa in Tokyo with some 50 representatives from 19 organisations.
He also participated in organising a large scale anti-Apartheid rally on the occasion of the visit to Japan of Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 1986. Brian Filling from Scotland), Dina Forti from Italy, Rajni Kumar from India and Vassos Lyssarides from Cyprus were also recipients.
Filling led many pickets, demonstrations and events against apartheid including a maiden speech at university debate against the selling of arms to apartheid South Africa, University of Glasgow in 1966.
He was actively engaged, together with the Glasgow’s Lord Provost, in getting the City to award the Freedom of the City to Nelson Mandela who was then in prison in South Africa in 1981, addressed by Vice-President of Nigeria, Alex Ekwueme, ANC Chief Representative and Ruth Mompati. This was an important milestone in the Free Mandela campaign.