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Mbeki's mum too ill to get S Africa honour from son

By Staff
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JOHANNESBURG, Apr 20 (Reuters) The mother of South African President Thabo Mbeki was too ill to receive the country's highest national honour from her son today, a news report said.

Mbeki was due to bestow the Order of the Baobab on his mother Epainette in a ceremony in the capital, Pretoria, but the South African Press Association said she was too sick to make the journey from her home in the Eastern Cape province.

''Alternative arrangements will be made to confer the honour on her,'' SAPA quoted Chancellor of the National Orders Frank Chikane as saying.

Epainette Mbeki was due to receive the honour for her work with underprivileged communities and her commitment to the fight against apartheid, the president's office said.

The tiny former teacher has worked for more than 60 years as a community activist in the Eastern Cape, and ran a shop while her husband Govan Mbeki, since deceased, was jailed alongside Nelson Mandela on Robben Island. Her son Thabo spent decades working for the ANC in exile.

South Africa's highest order was also awarded posthumously to the former kings of neighbouring Swaziland and Lesotho, and to the former president of Botswana, Seretse Khama, for their role in the struggle against apartheid, which ended with democratic elections in 1994.

Chikane could not immediately be reached for comment. The president's spokesman declined to comment.

REUTERS KD KP2037

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