French honour for Ahmed Kathrada

16 July 2015

Struggle icon Ahmed Kathrada has received a top French honour, a medal of the Knighthood of the Legion of Honour.

French ambassador to South Africa Elisabeth Barbier gave Kathrada the signet of Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Legion during Bastille Day celebrations at the embassy on 14 July.

The French Legion of Honour celebrates the accomplishments of distinguished individuals, irrespective of sex, social background and nationality.

“Mr Kathrada, your lifelong struggle for justice and freedom commands respect and admiration,” Barbier said. “Your example demonstrates that freedom, equality, fraternity are not just words devoid of signification. They are an ideal able to inspire the life and dedication of great, exceptional men.”

The Legion of Honour

The national order of the Legion of Honour was established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802. It’s the highest decoration in France and is divided into five degrees of increasing distinction: Chevalier (Knight), Officier (Officer), Commandeur (Commander), Grand Officier (Grand Officer) and Grand Croix (Grand Cross).

It was first awarded on 14 July 1804.

Other South Africans to be honoured

Nelson Mandela, Kathrada’s close friend for over six decades received the Grand Croix de la Legion d’Honneur in 1994 from former president François Mitterrand.

Two other prominent South Africans who have been awarded this honour are Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the late Nadine Gordimer.

Bastille Day

Bastille Day marks the beginning of the French Revolution; which started with the storming of the ancient royal fortress in 1789.

In Paris, the day is celebrated with a grand military parade, attended by the president of the republic.

Source: French Embassy