Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe,
Former Heads of State and Government present
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng,
The Minister of Arts and Culture Mr Paul Mashatile,
The distinguished recipients of the National Orders,
Ministers, Premiers, Deputy Ministers,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Members of the Tambo Family,
The Chancellor of the National Orders, Dr Cassius Lubisi,
The Advisory Council on the National Orders,
Ladies and gentlemen.
Let me welcome all of you to our special 2012 National Orders Awards Ceremony today.
This ceremony is special in numerous ways, firstly because it coincides with the centenary of the oldest liberation movement in the continent, the ruling African National Congress (ANC), which turned a hundred years this year.
It is also special in another sense that it was planned to overlap with the memorial lecture of Oliver Reginald Tambo, the ninth and longest serving president of the ANC after whom the National Order we are bestowing today has been named.
We have in Mr Tambo’s memory, considered it fitting to admit award recipients to only one category of our National Order Awards, the Order of the Companions of Oliver Tambo.
This award recognises people from outside South Africa, who played a very important role in our struggle for freedom and democracy. The preamble of our Constitution expresses this spirit of gratitude to those who helped this country to attain democracy, thereby enjoining us, in reverent emulation, to single out for recognition, these distinguished international patriots who helped us in the struggle.
Our 100th year anniversary as the ANC and our 18th years of democracy as a country are milestones which would have not been possible without the decisive participation of the international community in the efforts to liberate this country.
It has only been possible through the actions of nations and individuals who took resolute moral stance against apartheid, some of whom we are honoured to have in our midst today.
It has been possible, quite significantly, through the crucial role that Oliver Tambo played in exile over the years, turning the brittle and vulnerable organisation into a strong, united, respectable and formidable force, despite its membership spread in many countries.
We remain forever grateful to the worldwide anti-apartheid movement, which in many ways demonstrated solidarity with South African people, and with the liberation movements in general, by providing support and highlighting the atrocities of apartheid.
We are moreover humbled in our deep knowledge that this anti-apartheid movement, involving various organisations, religious, civil, labour and many others was most intense in the countries which had strongest ties with apartheid South Africa.
We thank our African brothers, all our close neighbours, the then Frontline states and the broader continent for rising to our defence, on many occasions sealing their commitment to our cause with their own blood.
More than fifty years ago, former President of Ghana, the late Kwame Nkrumah said that the independence of Ghana was meaningless unless it was linked to the total liberation of Africa.
We are grateful that many African leaders, like him, did not only wallow in armchair criticism, but took efforts to assist the liberation movement in South Africa to fight for freedom.
Many organisations, which cannot all be enumerated here, expressed strongest moral condemnation against apartheid, a significant lot supporting the liberation struggle in various ways.
We single out the OAU for narrowing its key goals to the liberation of the colonised and oppressed countries like ours, remembering also the indefatigable role of the UN and its bodies in condemning apartheid and providing relief in various ways.
The Non-Aligned Movement, the Commonwealth, the Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Organisation and many organisations assisted us immensely.
Various organisations, the World Council of Churches, the World’s Peace Council, the British Anti-Apartheid Movement, the American Committee on Africa and other American organisations, the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement and the Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting countries for their solidarity against apartheid.
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.
The Prime Minister of Sweden, Olof Palme also an esteemed friend to Oliver Tambo, stated that:
“The fundamental moral of democratic socialism make it our obligation to stand on the side of the oppressed against the oppressors, on the side of the poor and the distressed against their exploiters and masters.”
And it was a sad loss that after his enormous contribution, no thanks to the machinations of some shady forces, Palme never lived to see our freedom day in 1994.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great delight for us to honour among these esteemed international figures Toshio Akiniwa, who promoted anti-apartheid activities extensively in Japan over many years.
We are also deeply honoured to have former Jamaican Prime Minister, Percival Noel James Patterson, who promoted the ANC and the struggle for South Africa’s freedom in Jamaica.
The Champion of the Free Mandela Campaign in Scotland, Brian Filling, is also among our esteemed recipients.
Regrettably, our anti-apartheid movement leader in Italy, Ms Dina Forti could not make it.
We must nevertheless acknowledge Rajni Kumar from India, whose support and finest input in the curricula at the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College remains etched in our mind.
Her country was the first to register our plight at the United Nations in 1947 and was the first outside Africa to open the ANC a mission in 1967.
We thank our friends from Cuba, Nigeria and Cyprus for being part of the unanimous collective global statement that South Africa would not change through reform led by the oppressor, but through proactive radical global action.
Indeed it is sanctions, oil and arms embargos, financial divestments and material assistance from the global community that brought this country where it is today.
And we are indeed grateful.
We congratulate all those who are to be admitted into the National Orders. By the powers vested in me by Section 84 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996, I now confer the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo.
The recipients shall henceforth be honoured as esteemed Members of the Orders. The people of the Republic of South Africa thank you and honour you most profoundly for your contribution to the achievement of their freedom!
I thank you!