Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums with South African President Thabo Mbeki in South Africa.
Historic Work to end Apartheid puts Mayor with Ghandi, King, Mandela and Annan
South African President Thabo Mbeki presented Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums with the “Order of the Grand Companions of OR Tambo Silver Award”, the most prestigious award granted by the South African government. Mayor Dellums is being honored for his leadership to end apartheid in South Africa.
Mayor Dellums said: “On the occasion of my leaving the Congress, many told me, ‘Dellums, you made a difference in the world.’ I had been audacious enough in my very first campaign to argue that one person could make such a difference. After a lifetime of public service, I have learned that one doesn’t make a difference by oneself. Even as I listen to others say that my efforts on the anti-apartheid sanctions bill had helped to change the world, I knew that I did not make that contribution by myself. We did it when millions of people took the time to coalesce into a mighty force that could bend the political process to its will.”
In 1972, Dellums began his campaign to end the racially segregated apartheid policies of South Africa. For all practical purposes, there was no anti-apartheid movement in the United States at the time. This bill started the process that fourteen years later would lead the U.S. House of Representatives to pass his anti-apartheid legislation, calling for a trade embargo against South Africa and immediate divestment by American corporations. The bill finally agreed to by both houses of Congress, The Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 had broad bipartisan support. It called for sanctions against South Africa and stated preconditions for lifting the sanctions, including the release of all political prisoners. President Ronald Reagan vetoed the bill, which was overridden; it was the first override in the 20th century of a presidential foreign-policy veto.
This divestment pressure, as a result of Dellums’ bill, led the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, which led to the release of Nelson Mandela and key to his eventual election as President of a democratic South Africa.
Previous recipients include Indian human-rights activist Mahatma Gandhi, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
While in South Africa, the mayor will use the occasion to begin discussions regarding the possibility of establishing a Sister City Agreement between Oakland and Cape Town, South Africa. Both Port cities share similar characteristics, values and goals.
“With the world becoming smaller through technology, tourism and trade, I believe that a Sister City relationship can promote cultural understanding, global education and economic growth for both cities and regions,” Mayor Dellums said in a letter to Cape Town Mayor Helen Zille. “Oakland is considered one of the most diverse cities in America. We have residents that come from over 100 countries, every continent, and that speak over 135 languages. We value our great diversity and region as the future of partnership, technological innovation, and superb education. It is our hope that the City of Cape Town will join us in creating a relationship that will promote economic and educational opportunities, and solidify a lasting friendship.”
During his stay, the mayor will also meet with President Nelson Mandela, the Port Manager of Cape Town, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.