Ahmed Kathrada receives Knighthood in Légion d’Honneur [fr]

On the occasion of French National Day, known outside of France as Bastille Day, Ambassador of France to South Africa, HE Elisabeth Barbier, bestowed upon Mr Ahmed Kathrada the medal of Knight of the Legion of Honour. The award ceremony took place during the 14 July celebrations at the French Residence in Pretoria.

Mr Kathrada today received the Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur from Ambassador Barbier on behalf of the President of the French Republic. The French Legion of Honour celebrates the accomplishments of distinguished individuals, irrespective of sex, social background and nationality.

In her address, Ambassador Barbier said: “Mr Kathrada, your life-long struggle for justice and freedom commands respect and admiration. Your example demonstrates that freedom, equality, fraternity, (in French Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité), are not just words devoid of signification. They are an ideal able to inspire the life and dedication of great, exceptional men”.

The national order of the Legion of Honour was established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, and is the highest decoration in France and is divided into five degrees of increasing distinction: Chevalier (Knight), Officier (Officer), Commandeur (Commander), Grand Officier (Grand Officer) and Grand Croix (Grand Cross). It was first awarded on July 14 1804.

Mr Kathrada’s great friend of 67 years – late former president Nelson Mandela – received the Grand ’Croix de la Legion d’Honneur (or the Grand Cross) in 1994 from the late former president François Mitterrand.

Other South Africans who have received this accolade include Nobel peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, struggle icon Dr Mamphela Ramphele, businessman Johann Rupert, late former education minister Kader Asmal, late singer Miriam Makeba, late writer André Brink and late Nobel laureate for literature Nadine Gordimer.

Bastille Day marks the beginning of the French Revolution with the storming of the ancient royal fortress on this day in 1789. In Paris, the day is celebrated with a grand military parade, attended by the President of the Republic.

Also in attendance were former President Mr Kgalema Motlanthe, struggle icon Denis Goldberg, former Robben Island prisoner Tlou Theophilus Cholo, Houssen Amode of Reunion Island, Senator Robert Hue of France, Director-General for the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Prof Edith Vries and social activist Yusuf Abramjee.

The national anthems of France and South Africa were performed by Tumi Mogorosi and his band.

After the formalities and speeches were concluded the guests were invited to enjoy some fine French cuisine and wine on the residence lawns.

Read the press coverage here.

Watch a video of the Ambassador Barbier and Mr Kathrada’s speeches (courtesy of Diplomatic Society):

Media enquiries:
Lali van Zuydam
Press attaché
French Embassy in South Africa
083 457 3809 or eleanor.van-zuydam@diplomatie.gouv.fr

publie le 23/07/2015

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