1 March 2005
President Thabo Mbeki has received Athens’ highest honour for his contribution to the struggle against apartheid.
Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis presented Mbeki with the City of Athens Medal of Honour on Friday, saying that Greece and South Africa shared a brotherhood in cause of freedom.
President Mbeki was in Greece for a three-day state visit to the Hellenic Republic.
“There is a second reason this ceremony takes on for us an importance deeper than usual”, said Bakoyannis. “It concerns the strong symbolism embodied in your own person. You symbolise, Mr President, the long and tortuous struggle against apartheid.”
The mayor said she hoped the strong ties between the two countries, forged in times of misfortune, war and inequality, “culminate this century in the final success of the process of peace, fraternity and prosperity”.
Mbeki said the honour bestowed upon him posed a challenge, as he now had to live up to that honour.
“The things that you said constitute somewhat of challenge because this means we then have to make sure that in future we do not dishonour this medal of merit”, Mbeki said.
He committed to do “everything I can to make sure that this vision you projected of a world of peace, of fraternity, of prosperity” became a reality.
Mbeki invited Mayor Bakoyannis to assist in building a new South Africa, as the country responded to the challenge of fast-growing and expanding towns and cities.
He also congratulated the Mayor on a “great achievement” for being the first woman mayor of Athens.
He added that South Africa had much to learn from Greece’s successful hosting of the Olympic Games last year.
“[W]e should draw on that experience … particularly in the context of what we shall have to do in a few years’ time to host the 2010 Soccer World Cup”, Mbeki said.