Pretoria, Apr 29: Two Indian-origin South Africans, along with former president Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and 29 others, were honoured with South Africa’s highest national award ‘Order of Luthuli’. A total of 32 people were bestowed with the country’s highest award by President Jacob Zuma at the National Orders Awards ceremony at the presidential guest house here. Also Read - South Africa Name New Captains: Dean Elgar to Lead in Tests; Temba Bavuma Gets Limited-Overs Captaincy

The ‘Order of Luthuli’ was conferred on veteran political activist Sathyandranath ‘Mac’ Maharaj, as well as posthumously on Late Suliman ‘Babla’ Saloojee, who was killed by apartheid-era security forces in 1964. Winnie’s granddaughter Zoleka Mandela accepted the award on her behalf, as the veteran leader is recovering after hospitalisation. 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. (ALSO READ:Thousands of South Africans march to press for Jacob Zuma’s ouster) Also Read - Dale Steyn's 'PSL More Rewarding Than IPL' Statement Stirs Fresh Controversy, Twitterverse Reacts on South Africa's Pacer's Comment

“The recipients of the national orders have each contributed in some way to the attainment of this goal. We reiterate that South Africa is a much better place to live in now than it was before 1994,” South African President Jacob Zuma said. Maharaj’s citation acknowledged the long prison term on Robben Island which he had served alongside Nelson Mandela. He served as the Transport Minister in the post-apartheid government and also as Presidential Advisor in the fourth and fifth administrations? until his retirement in 2015. Also Read - South African Strain of COVID-19 Detected in 4 Returnees, 1 Found Positive For Brazil Variant, Says Govt

Maharaj also achieved fame for smuggling out of Robben Island Mandela’s memoirs transcribed into tiny script, which would later become the basis for Mandela’s best-selling biography ‘Long Walk to Freedom’. Legal clerk Saloojee was among the participants from the renowned Transvaal Indian Congress who joined the Defiance Campaign of 1952 against apartheid laws? and was killed in detention by apartheid forces in 1964.

Saloojee was also a member of the ‘Picasso Club’ that was known for painting anti-apartheid slogans around Johannesburg, and frequently helped exiles flee the country. Maharaj dedicated his award to his family and to all the other activists who according to him had gone through great difficulties on their own while he was in detention for so many years. Saloojee’s widow Rokaya said she had mixed feelings about the award and stated that her husband “paid the ultimate price for dedicating his life to fighting political injustice in South Africa. However, she felt that the recognition came a bit late in 22 years of democracy in South Africa.

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