Senator Edward M. Kennedy to Receive South Africa’s Highest Honor Posthumously

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Ted Kennedy, Jr., son of the late Senator, will be in South Africa to accept the award from President Zuma on behalf of his father

Senator Edward M. Kennedy will be posthumously honored by the Republic of South Africa for his tireless leadership in the international struggle against apartheid and for his outstanding contributions towards a free and democratic South Africa.

The President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, will confer the award, The Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo, in Pretoria, South Africa, on Friday, April 27, 2012, Freedom Day, the national holiday in South Africa that celebrates the date of the country’s first post-apartheid elections, April 27, 1994.

Ted Kennedy, Jr., the son of the late senator, will be present to personally accept the award from President Zuma on behalf of his father.

The Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo is regarded as the highest honor that can be bestowed to a foreign citizen by the South African government. Past recipients have included the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Olaf Palme.

The award is named after the late Oliver Tambo, who was the African National Congress' president-in-exile for many years. Mr. Tambo played a major role in the international movement against racism and apartheid. For many years, many commentators portrayed ANC leaders Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo as communists. Senator Kennedy was one of the only members of U.S. Congress to meet with Mr. Tambo when he came to the United States. In addition, following his visit to South Africa in 1985, Senator Kennedy flew to Zambia to meet with Mr. Tambo.

Following the death of Senator Kennedy in August 2009, President Zuma lauded the Senator “as one of the greatest and most effective American lawmakers of his generation. For South Africa, he became a comrade and friend in our struggle for liberation. This was because of his strong belief that all people are born equal, and his nature, which did not allow him to rest in the face of injustice. At a time when many hesitated to speak out, Senator Kennedy stated bluntly that apartheid was racist and morally wrong. Peace and justice were always at the top of his agenda. We hope that even in his passing, his legacy will serve to inspire his fellow countrymen to take up the banner in continuing the fight to keep those ideals alive."

In anticipation of accepting the award on behalf of his late father, Ted Kennedy, Jr., said "I want to convey my gratitude and appreciation to the citizens and leadership of South Africa for this incredible honor and recognition of my father’s work. My father's life was guided by a deep commitment to social justice and an unwavering belief in the fundamental equality of all people. I accompanied my father on his trip to South Africa in 1985, and I saw his sorrow and anger when we visited the barracks-like hostels for black workers in Soweto and the desolate resettlement camps of Onverwacht and Mathopstad. He never forgot the people he met, and he never stopped fighting for a more fair and just South Africa. He rejected President Reagan’s policy of ‘constructive engagement’ and persuaded his Senate colleagues to override the President’s veto of the Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986. My father’s law stands as the only foreign policy veto of the 20th century that Congress voted to override, and he counted it among his greatest legislative achievements.”

On the passing of Senator Kennedy, Bishop Desmond Tutu stated “Senator Kennedy, one of America’s greatest senators, was a passionate and committed supporter of our anti-apartheid struggle. When he visited South Africa, he stayed with us in our house in Soweto. We and the world owe him so much.”

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For further inquiries, contact T.J. Modzelweski at 212-532-3651.

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TJ Modzelewski
Office of Ted Kennedy, Jr
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