Fifteen women who have played a prominent role on the continent were celebrated as Africa’s foremost heroines.
At a gala dinner at the African Union (AU) Summit in Sandton on Friday night, Nelson Mandela’s widow, Graça Machel, and Ghana’s former first lady, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, were awarded for their contributions to African society.
ANC stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, chairperson of the AU Commission Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, former president of Malawi Joyce Banda and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf were also celebrated as “Living Legends”.
The Women of Excellence Awards were hosted by the African Union/Diaspora Africa Forum in collaboration with the South African government and the AU Commission during the 25th African Union Heads of State and Government Summit.
The awards were held at Sandton’s five-star Michelangelo Hotel.
“I was almost reduced to tears when I got this invitation, but my tears dried up during the brutal times of apartheid,” said Madikizela-Mandela, who also told guests at the event that South Africans were not “xenophobic”.
“It our responsibility to unite Africa, not the things that take us back. We want unity,” she said.
Dlamini-Zuma joked that she wanted to be disciplined like Madikizela-Mandela because she was very governable.
“I don’t know how I’m in the same audience as Mam’Winnie and Sirleaf,” Dlamini-Zuma told the guests, as she received her award at the podium.
Machel said: “I’m in the presence of excellence and I accept this award with humility.”
She dedicated her award to the millions of girls in Africa and around the world who do not have access to education.
While the guests were served with the main course of a duo of lamb cutlets and chicken supreme, accompanied by fondant potatoes, rosemary roast vegetables and Pinotage jus, they were entertained by jazz singer Judith Sephuma’s performance of her hit song Mme Motswadi.
Motivational speaker Dr Toni Luck was the mistress of ceremonies for the night.
“I’m an African because Africa is in me,” Luck told the audience