Cape Town — Former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda has been chosen by the National Heritage Council as this year's recipient of its Ubuntu Award.
This was announced by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the heritage council, Advocate Sonwabile Mancotywa, at a press conference held on Monday at the official residence of the Western Cape Premier Ebrahim Rasool.
Advocate Mancotywa said the award was to be presented to the elderly Zambian statesman, because he exemplified a character of true humanity with a global impact.
This is the second time the Ubuntu Award is being presented and former President Nelson Mandela was last year's recipient.
Advocate Mancotywa said the award came as a result of a speech made by President Thabo Mbeki in September 2005 at Taung, in the North West province. Mr Mbeki had called on South Africans to revive the values of ubuntu (roughly translated as "humanness", or one's common humanity).
"The values enshrined in this philosophy of ubuntu have the highest potential to unite not only the people of South Africa but also the continent.
"The greatest challenge, however, is how best to embrace the philosophy and make it practical in our young democracy to develop a social contract," said the CEO.
He added that the heritage council is currently running campaigns and programmes to revive the spirit of ubuntu.
The award will be presented at a special ubuntu imbizo to be held at the farm of Boschendal outside Franschhoek on Friday. The theme is "Reviving Ubuntu for National Reconciliation".
Advocate Mancotywa said Mr Kaunda sought to create a caring society, which is what "stood at the heart of his humanism".
He peacefully relinquished power to the political opposition after being president of Zambia for 26 years.
"When an opposition movement emerged from within the trade union movement under Frederick Chiluba, and demanded a multi-party democracy, Mr Kaunda conceded.
"He could have resisted the pressure to reform or rigged the elections but he subjected his party to an election in 1991 knowing quite well that he might lose," he said.
Mr Kaunda gracefully stepped down in a show of humility. "How much we wish most leaders would follow his example," he added.
Advocate Mancotywa said the heritage council wanted to honour Mr Kaunda on behalf of our country, in recognition of his decency, humility and compassion for human-kind.
Referring to slavery, colonialism and apartheid oppression to which many of the province's multicultural population was subjected for so long, Mr Rasool said: "The ghosts of the past speak to the need to bring ubuntu to the Western Cape."
Referring to the "angst of identity" in the province, he added that the values of ubuntu could ensure that "diversity is a point of reconciliation".
The ubuntu imbizo scheduled for Friday and the ubuntu award will be presented at a gala dinner in the evening.