President Jacob Zuma of South Africa had the prestigious African President of the Year award 2009 bestowed on him on Tuesday.
“As we accept these awards, it is proper that we pay special tribute to our African elders who fought for freedom and independence,” Zuma said at the African Consciousness Media Leadership Awards ceremony in Johannesburg.
“These leaders fought for the unity of the African people,” he said.
The award, founded by the African Consciousness Media and the Kenneth Kaunda Foundation, recognises achievement and serves to honour African leaders.
Zuma said: “What is most special about the award is that it is Africans recognising what they regard as achievement and appreciating their own.
“While individuals are singled out for awards, this ceremony is also about acknowledging the collective efforts of Africa’s people to build a better life”.
African leaders pledged that they would strive for the eradication of poverty, disease and conflict, he said. They pledged to promote trade, investment, economic growth, skills development and stability on the continent.
“To promote good governance, we established the African Peer Review Mechanism. To foster economic integration and development, we established the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.
“These must be the instruments we use to advance the cause of our continent,” said Zuma.
He said if leaders faltered, they expected ordinary citizens, civil society, academics and the media to sound warning bells.
“Good leaders heed these warnings and respond constructively. They do not consider themselves to be above their people,” he said.
Zuma said the awards helped remind African leaders of their responsibilities to the people. “A true leader is guided by the needs and the collective wisdom of the people. These awards should therefore not be about status or prestige, but service and sacrifice.”
Zuma praised former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda for “his brand of ubuntu”, which he said had been a guiding moral compass in that country.
“It is a special privilege to receive this award from President Kaunda, in particular Zambia. The former headquarters of the ANC was our home away from home due to Kaunda’s solidarity and hospitality that we will never forget as South Africans,” he said, adding that African leaders needed to emulate Kaunda’s example. – Sapa