04/20/2015 01:47 EDT | Updated 06/20/2015 05:59 EDT

Brian Mulroney Lauded By South Africa For Anti-Apartheid Efforts

The former prime minister is the first Canadian to receive the "Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo."

PRETORIA, South Africa - Former prime minister Brian Mulroney is being recognized for his contributions to the South African liberation movement with a national order, the country's highest honour.

Mulroney is the first Canadian to receive the "Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo," an award that acknowledges foreign leaders and citizens for "friendship shown to South Africa."

Mulroney is being given the award for what the South African government calls an exceptional contribution to the liberation movement of South Africa.

While in office, Mulroney's government strongly opposed apartheid, a system of racial segregation in South Africa that was at the centre of political violence that kept the region in a state of emergency until 1990.

Mulroney's work in opposing apartheid and in helping to secure the release of activist and eventual South African president Nelson Mandela earned him the Companion of the Order of Canada in 1998.

Cassius Lubisi, South Africa's chancellor of national orders, announced the recipients on the weekend.

"His steadfast support for the release of Nelson Mandela and for imposing sanctions on South Africa's apartheid regime led to a free, democratic, non-sexist and non-racial South Africa," Lubisi said of Mulroney in a statement.

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