Los Angeles Congresswoman Maxine Waters was awarded the “Order of the Companions of OR Tambo Silver Award” by South African President Thabo Mbeki March 25th in Pretoria, South Africa.
Waters received this honor because of her work on behalf of the people of South Africa throughout her career, especially her role in fighting against the former apartheid regime in South Africa.
“I am deeply honored to receive South Africa’s most prestigious award, the companion of Oliver Reginald Tambo,” said Waters during the presentation ceremony. “I thank President Mbeki for recognizing my contribution to ending apartheid. This is a day I will never forget.”
Throughout the 1980s, Waters organized marches and rallies in Los Angeles to protest the racist system of apartheid in South Africa, according to a Waters spokesman. She led sit-ins at the South African consular office in Los Angeles and was arrested in front of the South African Consulate in Washington, D.C. for protesting the apartheid regime.
In 1986, as a member of the California Assembly, she called for the divestment of funds from corporations doing business with South Africa’s apartheid regime and helped to make the call for divestment a national movement sweeping from state to state and city to city. Waters subsequently authored Assembly Bill 134, to divest a record $12 billion from public pension funds in California, thus fortifying California’s opposition to the apartheid regime.
In 1987, the Los Angeles Free South Africa Movement, which Waters chaired, welcomed Oliver Tambo, president of the anti-apartheid African National Congress (ANC) and the man for whom the OR Tambo Award was named at a standing-room only gathering at Trinity Baptist Church.
In 1990, when ANC leader Nelson Mandela embarked on an eight-city tour of the United States, the congresswoman chaired the welcoming committee that greeted him and his then-wife Winnie with a motorcade to City Hall, a Hollywood reception, and a six-hour concert and rally attended by 90,000 people.
The following year, Waters traveled to South Africa for the first time to attend Nelson Mandela’s release from prison and the ANC national conference in Durban, South Africa, the first ANC conference that the organization was allowed to officially exist. Three years later, following the dismantling of apartheid and South Africa’s first democratic elections, she was a member of the official U.S. delegation to attend the inauguration of President Mandela in Pretoria.
Waters has also led congressional efforts to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which infects over 18 percent of the adult population of South Africa. She has introduced legislation to allow people in developing countries like South Africa to have access to generic HIV/AIDS drugs at affordable prices, and is working with her colleagues to increase funding for international HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention programs, according to the spokesman.