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The late Miriam “Mama Africa” Makeba, described as a woman of righteousness and truth, has been awarded this year’s Ubuntu Honour by the National Heritage Council (NHC).
“The story of her life reads like a dictionary entry next to the word ‘ubuntu’,” NHC chief executive officer Sonwabile Mancotywa said as Makeba was honoured as the sixth recipient to receive the award.
“She was not a politician but a revolutionary of a special demeanour... a cultural activist with no boundaries to her talent,” said Mancotywa.
Previous recipients include Nelson Mandela (2006), Kenneth Kaunda (2007), Fidel Castro (2008), and Boutros Boutros-Ghali and King Sabata Dalindyebo (2009).
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who received the honour in 2011, presented the award to Makeba’s grandchildren, Nelson Lumumba Lee and Zenzi Monique Lee.
Madikizela-Mandela said: “Values are not an individual expression but a socially lived one.”
She said Makeba was not an entertainer who stayed away from politics but rather someone who saw and expressed the pain of her people, and she demonstrated that people could wage the good fight from where they were, as she had become a refugee after her passport was taken away. “A loving person… never allowed super-stardom to take her away from her people,” said Madikizela-Mandela.
MC Florence Masebe said Makeba was a true soldier of the soil who chose to fight with her voice and a microphone.
The Ubuntu Honour recognises individuals who have distinguished themselves as an embodiment and champions of values that are consistent with the ubuntu value system. It is a project of the NHC to harness this cultural value system as the common heritage of all South Africans.
“Ubuntu cannot be sold. It is who we are,” said Masebe.
Mama Africa popularised African music around the world in the 1960s. She was exiled for 30 years and came back to the country in 1990. Makeba died in 2008 from a heart attack on a stage in Italy after performing her legendary hit song Pata Pata.
Earlier this month, Makeba was celebrated with a Google doodle on her birthday – March 4. She would have been 81.
Another person to receive acclaim this week was businessman Richard Maponya, who received the lifetime achievement award at the inaugural SA Premier Business Awards.
Entrepreneur and businessman Maponya was recognised for his significant contribution to the development of South African business, as well as his contribution to the community, during his lifetime.