The government of South Africa has awarded the Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo to Toshio Akiniwa, the president of the Japan Asia Africa Latin America Solidarity Committee (JAALA), for his unconditional support for the African National Congress (ANC) during the apartheid era.

The Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo is named after former ANC President-in-exile Oliver Reginald Tambo (1917-1993) and is awarded to eminent foreign nationals for friendship shown to South Africa. Among the previous Japanese recipients is Sadako Ogata, former president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, who was awarded with the Order in 2010.

Akiniwa was chosen as one of the eight recipients in 2012 and the Order was bestowed on him by South African President Jacob Zuma in the capital, Pretoria, on Oct, 26. He was presented with a carved wooden walking stick, which symbolizes support, solidarity and commitment to stand by the recipient in return.

A commemorative event was held on Jan. 28 at the Embassy of South Africa in Tokyo, where Ambassador Mohau Pheko expressed her congratulations to Akiniwa on receiving the award.

Born in 1925 in Tokyo, Akiniwa joined the army at the Manchuria Military School during World War II. He was taken to Siberia in 1949 as a prisoner of war by the Soviet Army. On his return to Japan, he became involved in campaigning for the democracy movement.

In 1955 he became a member of the JAALA and met the ANC delegation at the First Asia Africa Conference in Cairo in 1958. He was part of the group that organized the first Solidarity Rally in Tokyo in 1964, demanding the immediate abolition of apartheid and urging support for the South African people. He was also involved in organizing the first Anti-Apartheid All Japan Camp in Shizuoka Prefecture in 1978.

In 1987, he was one of the JAALA members that met with Tambo to finalize the establishment of the ANC’s Tokyo Office, which opened on May 25, 1988.