Media Statement

18 July 2020

South Africa’s Message of Condolence on the passing of US Congressman and Civil Rights Activist, John Lewis

The Government of South Africa has learned with great sadness about the death of US Congressman and renowned Civil Rights Activist, Mr John Lewis.

On behalf of President Cyril Ramaphosa and the people of South Africa, Minister Pandor expresses condolences to the family and friends of Mr Lewis.

Minister Pandor said Mr Lewis leaves behind him a proud legacy of activism and will forever be remembered for his brave and steadfast fight for equality, justice and dignity for African Americans in the United States and black people everywhere.

Mr Lewis was a Freedom fighter in the United States in the 1960s, at a time when those active in the struggle against racism and for equality were met with violence. In 1965 he led a March for voting rights in Selma, Alabama where he was brutally assaulted by police.

Mr Lewis’ distinguished service to the American people as a Congressman for over thirty years and his unflinching commitment to justice for all has cemented his place as one of the greatest civil rights icons of our time.

Mr Lewis paved the road for African Americans into mainstream politics and former President Obama has stated that his ascendency to being the first African American President would not have been possible if it was not for the activism of Mr Lewis. Mr Lewis contributions to the struggle for human rights was formally recognised when former President Obama awarded Mr Lewis with the United States’ highest civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

As a young activist, Mr Lewis identified deeply with the struggles of the African people against colonialism and later with the anti-Apartheid struggle in South Africa. He had the honour of being the first black American to meet former President Nelson Mandela after his release from prison. Mr Lewis sponsored a resolution in the United States Congress in 2018, to mark the 100th birthday of former President Nelson Mandela.

His formidable contributions leaves a legacy that will continue to inspire activists and politicians committed to the ongoing struggle for justice, human rights, dignity and equality for Americans and people in the diaspora.

Enquiries: Mr Clayson Monyela, Spokesperson for DIRCO, 082 884 5974

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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