French Ambassador to Zimbabwe Francois Ponge said following proposals from France’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, France’s President Nicholas Sarkozy decided to “welcome” Mukoko and Holland into the “first of our national orders – The National Order of the Legion of Honour”.
“This is an award given to women and men bestowed with outstanding civil and military virtues and whose purpose is to serve – serve their country, serve their values and serve others: those who fight for freedom and equality, values that unite all mankind,” said Ambassador Ponge at the award ceremony hosted at his official residence in Harare recently.
He said the Legion of Honour, or Légion d’honneur, is France’s highest order, or decoration, that recognises military and civilians alike for their bravery or honourable service to their countries.
The award was established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte as a way to distinguish civilians and soldiers in a way that had nothing to do with loyalty but the award recognises anyone who exhibited merit.
“The hope that you give to an entire nation, by your action in favour of human rights and democracy, the hope you give to the people around the world to see the core values of humanity, beyond cultural differences, defended everywhere on this planet. It is the action of a lifetime, as you continue at the head of the institutions you manage,” said the Ambassador in reference to Mukoko’s work as director of ZPP and Holland as co-minister of the Organ on National Healing.
Ambassador Ponge said he felt honoured to hand over the medals to the two distinguished Zimbabwean women “because by honouring you, France remains faithful to its most noble message since its revolution in 1789, to address the world in terms of freedom and progress”.
In her emotional acceptance speech Mukoko said she felt honoured and humbled by the award and thanked God for her life as she might have been part of the victims’ statistics following her abduction and detention in December 2008.
“I always have this feeling that December 3 (2008) will be coming again for me,” said Mukoko in reference to the day she was abducted by state security agents.”