By Cindy Zeilhofer

Anti-apartheid activist and singer Miriam Makeba has been awarded an honorary doctorate by Unisa.

The honour was bestowed upon "Mama Africa" for her efforts in promoting the continent and its heritage, explained Professor Mandla Makhanya, the dean of the humanities and social sciences faculty at the University of South Africa, during the ceremony where Makeba received the degree.

"She is a proud symbol for the continent," Makhanya said, explaining how he had been at her seventieth birthday celebration this year.

A tearful Makeba said she never thought she would be standing at Unisa receiving such an award.

She emphasised the importance of education. "Some of us never had a chance to be educated, but we have the opportunity now".

She said young people should strive to attain a university qualification in order to improve their own situation, as well as that of the country.

At the end of her speech, Makeba serenaded the audience with a song entitled Oh So Alone, which she said meant a lot to her when she was on her own.

Makeba, who returned to South Africa at the end of 1990 after 30 years in exile, is continuing her musical career, as well as caring for the community.

She is helping aspirant singers and has established the Makeba Home For Girls, a shelter for destitute youngsters.

This is the third honorary doctorate that Makeba has been awarded. She received doctorates from the University of Cape Town in 1993 and the University of Fort Hare in 1998.