Johannesburg: Former chairperson of South Africa`s election body Brigalia Bam has received the prestigious Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Peace and Reconciliation for her commitment to democracy.
Bam received the 2013 award at a ceremony at the Durban City Hall last night for ensuring free and fair elections since the advent of democracy in 1994 when anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela was elected the country`s first democratic president.
The annual awards, administered by a foundation headed by Ela Gandhi, granddaughter of the Mahatma Gandhi, are given to world leaders for their role in promoting peace.
The award was created in 2003 to commemorate the centenary of Indian Opinion, a newspaper started by Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa. He began his socio-political life in the country and struggled for justice and peace and reconciliation.
"The award indicates the courage, commitment and selflessness of the recipients as distinguished peacemakers," Ela Gandhi said.
After receiving the award, Bam spoke out against political intolerance. "Political violence as a means of contesting elections, or preventing one`s opponents from contesting in one`s presumed stronghold should be condemned."
Several Satyagraha Awards were also given, including one to Trevor Manuel, former South African Finance Minister and founding member of the United Democratic Front that mobilised citizens to oppose apartheid 30 years ago.
"Politics should not get in the way of our service delivery. We must be committed to serving every South African every single day," Manuel said.
Among six posthumous Satyagraha awardees was Valliamma Munniar, who marched beside Gandhi during his opposition to racist laws in South Africa and was jailed with him.
She contracted a serious illness while in prison and died aged just 16.