FRANCE – The French government on Tuesday knighted Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai for standing for human rights in Zimbabwe, a highest award given by the French government.
Tsvangirai was awarded the medal at the French embassy by the France’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, Francois Ponge, at his residency in Greendale Tuesday evening.
Ambassador Ponge saluted Tsvangirai’s political career, which started when he worked in the mining sector before independence, rising to become a trade union in the eighties and nineties, before the premier helped to form the MDC party in 1999.
The function was also attended by senior MDC officials, who included Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe.
“The Legion of Honour is the highest French decoration. At the forefront of many struggles you have been imprisoned and you also organised the first mass ‘stay away’ in this country. We all remember the photo that raised worldwide emotion where you were shown badly swollen leaving cell where you had been assaulted. Those who assaulted you thought they would dissuade you from politics, sway you, bring you down, they forgot that by beating an iron you can forge a sword.”
Ponge then put a red ribbon medal with a star around Tsvangirai’s neck to represent the honour.
“This honour is not mine. I would like to dedicate this honour on those people, Zimbabweans who have struggled with us for true democracy for the objective of having freedom in this country,” Tsvangirai said to the cheers of guests.
The French ambassador said the Legion of Honour was founded by the famous French General, Napoleon Bornaparte, to acknowledge the “exceptional merits French citizens in the military as well as civil society.”
Tsvangirai was born on March 10, 1952 in Gutu district. He was a miner before he went into trade unionism and politics later in life.
On his desire to see peace in Zimbabwe and reconcile with his long time rival Mugabe, Ponge said “your concern for the good of the people was stronger than your legitimate ambition and one can only salute your dedication during that time.”