Rumpus over awards to Gaddafi, Suharto

MONDAY, 6.00PM

PRESIDENT Nelson Mandela on Saturday morning invested visiting Indonesian President Mohamed Suharto with the Order of Good Hope, Class One, Grand Cross (Gold), South Africa’s highest civilain honour, immediately drawing fire from opposition parties.

Democratic Party leader Tony Leon said the award to Suharto, and one recently bestowed on Libyan strongman Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, has cheapened the value of South Africa’s highest civil award. “We suspect that the real reason for conferring this high honour has everything to do with campaign contributions to the ANC and little or nothing with our standing in the international community,” Leon said in a statement on Sunday.

“The back-to-back conferment of this award on Colonel Gaddafi and President Suharto, the effective dictator of one of the most right-delinquent countries in the world, is a very sad day for our democracy and its promise to respect human rights,” Leon added.

In response, the Democratic Party will early in 1998 introduce a Private Members’ Bill to regulate foreign funding of local political parties and to make such funding transparent, DP executive director James Selfe said on Monday.

The Bill will also seek to ban parties from receiving funding from other governments, he said. “If this is not done, the suspicion that South Africa’s foreign policy is for sale to the highest bidder can never be laid to rest.
Acceptance of such a Bill, and transparency about all foreign funding, will remove the taint in future.”

While the Promotion of Multi-party Democracy Bill, passed during this Parliamentary session, would provide a transparent mechanism for the funding of political parties by the state, a similar mechanism did not exist for funding of parties by foreign governments or companies, Selfe said.

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