Apr 30, 2013 News Comments Off on Amidst protests, South Africa defers posthumous award to Burnham – reports
The South African government has reportedly suspended granting a national award to former Guyana President, Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, in the wake of pressure from several quarters.
Burnham, through his daughter Roxanne Van West Charles, was set to receive the posthumous award of the Order of the Companions of O R Tambo, on Saturday as part of South Africa’s celebrations of Freedom Day celebrated on April 27.
Burnham ruled Guyana for 21 years before his death in 1985, at age 62. He has been time and again linked to the murder of Walter Rodney, a Guyanese historian, political activist and scholar, who was killed by a car bomb in 1980. It was this accusation and a petition that reportedly caused the South Africans to rescind their decision. There has been no official word from that government on the postponement.
South African official news statements made no mention of Burnham’s award following the event Saturday and Kaieteur News was unable to immediately make contact yesterday with his daughter.
However, a circulated email purportedly sent by Diedre Viljoen, Minister (Plenipotentiary) of the South African High Commission in Canada to the Van West Charles family, indicated that the South African government has decided to defer the posthumous award “indefinitely”.
The instructions came from Mandla Feni, Protocol and Ceremonial Services of the South African Presidency. It was sent Tuesday to the High Commission in Canada and forwarded to Burnham’s daughter on Wednesday.
On April 22, Chancellor of the National Orders, Dr. Cassius Lubisi, announced that Burnham would be honoured for “his dedication to the liberation of his country, Guyana, as well as the African continent. He established diplomatic relations with many African countries and expressed solidarity with the liberation movement and freedom fighters in South Africa. This solidarity with the leaders of the ANC strengthened relations between Guyana and South Africa.”
The award had drawn strong criticisms from Jamaican scholars Dr.Rupert Lewis and Dr. Horace Campbell.
There has not yet been any official comment from the People’s National Congress Reform, a party that Burnham founded.
The change.org website hosted a petition to President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, condemning the choice of Burnham as the intended recipient of O R Tambo Award. In total, 38 persons, locals and foreign nationals were set to be honoured Saturday.
“Even a cursory investigation reveals that Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, a late President of Guyana, was disastrous for Guyana and its people, as head of a corrupt, brutal and murderous regime, replete with election rigging, illegal referendums and an imposed Constitution in 1980. Internationally, it is also known that Burnham was an agent of imperialism, associated with the foreign policy goals of the US, France and other colonial powers,” the petition said. Almost 100 persons signed that petition to the South African President.
“It is an embarrassment that the Government of South Africa made the decision to confer this award. The award is an affront to the legacy and memory of Walter Rodney, Father Darke, Ohene Koama, Edward Dublin, and the numerous others who paid with their lives or liberty for challenging the increasing repression of the Burnham government.
“Neither Rodney’s assassination in June 1980, nor the other murders of that period have been investigated to this day, despite numerous calls.”
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