SOUTH Africa considers Jamaica to be a natural ally and is most grateful for the support given to the anti-apartheid movement and the role of successive Jamaican leaders in helping to dismantle the "repressive regime".
Addressing the 11th Annual President's Dinner of the Association of Consultant Physicians of Jamaica (ACPJ) at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel on Saturday South Africa's High Commissioner to Jamaica Mathu Joyini hailed the work of the late Marcus Mosiah Garvey and of former prime ministers Michael Manley (now deceased), Edward Seaga and PJ Patterson in the fight against apartheid.
Two consultant physicians, Dr Blossom Anglin-Brown and Dr Hopeton Falconer, were recognised at the dinner and presented with awards by ACPJ President Dr Rosemarie Wright-Pascoe.
The high commissioner said that Marcus Garvey had a great influence on the philosophy and ideas of the freedom fighters of South Africa and that Jamaica's involvement in petitions to the League of Nations complaining about apartheid and work at the United Nations, including involvement in the drafting of the UN Convention Against Apartheid, "were critical to the struggle".
"Manley played his part too in Zambia, Namibia, Zimbabwe; Seaga had an impact in the Commonwealth, ensuring that other countries imposed trade embargoes against South Africa, Jamaica brought the focus on the issue of apartheid in sports and was instrumental in the UN decision to ban South Africa", Joyini explained.
As such, she said, "it was no surprise that once apartheid was dismantled, Soweto moved swiftly to renew diplomatic relations with Jamaica and Mandela came personally, to say thank you."
The high commissioner told the ACPJ banquet that South Africa's gratitude to Jamaica was also demonstrated in the conferment of "the highest award reserved for foreigners, to... Patterson in recognition of his role in the struggle against apartheid."
The music of Jamaican artiste like Peter Tosh and Bob Marley were also very important in uplifting those fighting against apartheid, Joyini said "particularly those in South African prisons -- it helped sustain them from day to day". She said that the people of South Africa were very grateful for the support of Jamaica throughout their struggles and recognised that Mandela was much loved in this country.
"Mandela devoted his life to ensuring current and future generations could be free... he was imprisoned, faced the death penalty, lost his mother and son and could not bury them but he remained resolute -- a statesman, a peace ambassador," Joyini declared.
She ended her emotional presentation with the quote from Mandela: "what counts in life is not that we lived, but the difference we made in the life of others".