South African award for Krishna Menon may be delayed

April 22nd, 2008 - 1:32 pm ICT by admin  

By Fakir Hassen
Pretoria, April 22 (IANS) Despite wide publicity that former Indian defence minister V.K. Krishna Menon was to be awarded one of South Africa’s highest civil honours, the award will most likely not be conferred because the last surviving member of his family could not be traced in time. Menon, who was defence minister under India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, would have joined the ranks of world leaders including Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru who have been earlier recipients of such honours.

He was to posthumously receive South Africa’s second highest honour, the Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in silver, for “excellent contribution to the fight against colonialism and the apartheid system in South Africa”, according to his citation.

The award was to be conferred Tuesday by President Thabo Mbeki.

But a spokesperson for the Chancellor of the Orders, Frank Chikane, said here Monday night that despite every effort, the surviving family member had not yet been traced.

The office of the Indian High Commissioner in South Africa Rajiv Bhatia confirmed that he had been asked to accept the award, but that since the family had not yet accepted, it would not be right for the Indian government representative to accept it.

“This is a posthumous award to an individual Indian citizen, not to the government of India, and it is only right that the family first be contacted,” a spokesperson for the High Commission said.

The Chancellor’s office was Monday evening still uncertain of how the matter would be approached as consultations still had to take place with South African government ministers before the awards ceremony.

On Jan 23, 1957 Krishna Menon delivered an unprecedented eight-hour speech at the U.N. Security Council defending India’s stand on Kashmir. To date, the speech is the longest ever delivered in the United Nations.

The highest honour, the Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in gold, will this year be awarded to Nigerian leader Chief Emeka Anyaoku, a former Commonwealth secretary-general, for “his exceptional contribution to the struggle for freedom, justice and democracy in South Africa and on the African continent and for persistent efforts to promote the attainment of democracy and good governance on the African continent”.

The only South African Indian on the honours list this year is Chanderdeo “George” Sewpershad, a veteran struggle activist and lawyer who will receive a posthumous award “for opposing the apartheid regime and striving for the ideals of a non-racial, non-sexist, just and democratic South Africa”.

The National Orders are the highest awards that South Africa bestows on its citizens and foreign nationals who have contributed to the nation’s attainment of democracy.

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