Pretoria: A woman who was one of the five international members of South Africa’s 16- member Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) that organised the first democratic elections in 1994 was honoured for her work on Tuesday.
She also assisted the late former President and struggle icon, Nelson Mandela, cast his ballot paper during the democratic elections.
Professor Gay McDougall from the United States, was amongst recipients of National Orders bestowed by President Jacob Zuma to deserving local citizens and eminent foreign nationals at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guesthouse, in Pretoria.
The ceremony took place for the 21st time, honouring people who have contributed immensely towards the advancement of democracy, excelled in various endeavours as well as those who have made a significant impact on improving South Africans lives.
Through the ceremony, government recognises the contributions they have made towards building a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.
McDougall was awarded a National Order of the Companions of Oliver Tambo. This order is bestowed on those who actively promoted freedom, justice, human rights and democracy, through active support and expression of solidarity for the struggle against apartheid colonialism, beyond the country’s shores.
Speaking to SAnews shortly after receiving the award, she said receiving the order had brought back numerous memories about the history of South Africa, the liberation struggle and the political transition from apartheid to democracy.
“I am so thrilled to get this honour today, especially in the name of OR Tambo who was one of the true heroes of my life. I first met Tambo in London in the late 1970s that was the door opener for me and the African National Congress (ANC),” said McDougall.
She said she was thrilled to have been part of the turmoil and transition the country has gone through.
She also remembered being in Lusaka with OR Tambo and liberation movement stalwarts. “I remember walking to get thousands of South Africans out of jail, [those] who were detained on political charges I remember being here for the country’s first democratic elections there are so many memories brought by this,” she said.
President Jacob Zuma referred to McDougall as a renowned legal scholar who was one of the international members of the 16-member IEC that organised the democratic elections.
“She also played an immense role in dismantling the maze of apartheid laws, thereby helping the birth of a new dispensation and a new nation,” said President Zuma.
McDougall said, during that period, she and other IEC members were frightened that they would not be able to pull off the elections.
“The stress that we felt as a commission, it was a very difficult time. I remember most of all the 27 April 1994, when the sun came up and all the problems faded away, and long lines of people waiting to vote peacefully and quietly.
“I remember standing next to Nelson Mandela as he voted for the first time a great, tremendous honour for me,” she said.
Looking toward the future, McDougall said she had put her faith in South Africa’s youth to take the baton and move the country forward.
The National Orders are the highest awards that the country bestows on its citizens and eminent foreign nationals.
President Jacob Zuma said for all the immeasurable efforts and gestures of solidarity by recipients, the country remains eternally grateful.
“We salute all our recipients. All have contributed to building a better South Africa, a better Africa and a better world,” he said.
The Order of Mendi for Bravery was bestowed on Jetro Ndlovu, Joe Morolong posthumously, Caleb Motshabi posthumously, Eric Mtshali and Mpumelelo Washington Bongco posthumously.
The Order of Ikhamanga, which recognises South African citizens who have excelled in the fields of arts, culture, literature, music, journalism and sport, was bestowed on Themba Patrick Magaisa, Mbulaeni Mulaudzi posthumously, Darius Mfana Dhlomo posthumously, Winnie Mahlangu, Ramakgobotla John Mekoa and Mbulelo Vizikhungo Mzamane posthumously.
The Order of the Baobab, which recognises South African citizens who have contributed to community service, business and economy, science, medicine and technological innovation, was bestowed on Yvonne Mokgoro, Douglas John Anderson, Mary Makobatjatji Malahlela posthumously, Andrew Ross, Otto Stehlik and James David Lewis-Williams.
The Order of Luthuli recognises South African citizens who have contributed to the struggle for democracy, nation-building, building democracy and human rights, justice and peace as well as for the resolution of conflict. The order was bestowed on Kay Moonsamy, William Frankel, Johnson Malcomess Mgabela posthumously, Petros Nyawose posthumously, Jabulile Nyawose posthumously and Mohammed Tikly.
SOURCE: SOUTH AFRICAN OFFICIAL NEWS