In recognition of his commitment to the dignity and freedom of all people, his support for the development of young people and their education, and his contribution to the growth of Scouting in South Africa and beyond, Dr. Nelson Mandela is hereby awarded the AFRICA ELEPHANT AWARD, the highest and only Award given by the Africa Scout Committee.
The award was presented on April 23 by the Vice Chairman of the Africa Scout Committee, Nkwenkwe Nkomo, who is also the Chief Scout of South Africa.
His Excellency retired President Nelson Mandela was born and grew up in the province of Transkei in rural South Africa. From his first day at school he valued education and recognised in it the vehicle for the advancement of the people of Africa. Despite interruptions to his education caused by his standing up for his principles whilst at Fort Hare University, Dr. Mandela was able to continue his studies through other means and over many years, at times under the very difficult conditions of prison life. Scouting, which is a form of non-formal education, understands and recognises this commitment.
Dr. Mandela has had an enduring belief in the youth and has always promoted the development of young people. In 1943, he and a group of other visionary freedom fighters launched the ANC Youth League as a way of bringing youthful dynamism to the freedom struggle. The empowerment and involvement of young people is central to Scouting and is now the number one strategic priority of the World Organization of the Scout Movement.
But more than anything else, Dr. Mandela will always be best known and remembered for his epic struggle against apartheid and his central role in creating a new South Africa where people of all races can live as equals. Despite great hardships ,harassment and being imprisoned for 27 years, he remained steadfast and true to his believes. His determination, perseverance, courage and self-sacrifice for the good of other people are qualities that all Scouts should emulate as they endeavour to live in accordance with the Scout Law and Promise.
In 1977, the South Africa Scout Association took the courageous and unprecedented step of defying a cruel and unjust system and opened its doors to all young South Africans in a single united Association. Upon becoming President of South Africa in1994, Dr. Mandela recognised this pioneering role of Scouting in integrating South African society when he accepted to become the Association's Patron.
Under his patronage, the Scout movement has made tremendous progress and is today the largest youth organisation in South Africa. In 1999, the Scout Association played host to the world when the 35th World Scout Conference was held in Durban. Today, South African Scouting is at the fore front of the campaign against HIV/AIDS, empowering young people to say no to unsafe sex and drugs whilst equipping them with values and life skills that will make them self reliant, supportive, responsible and committed persons able and willing to contribute to the building of a dynamic and democratic South African nation.