Current South African President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday accepted the award on behalf of Mandela, who is in a critical condition in a hospital in Pretoria.

The Mahathir Award for Global Peace is a peace award instituted by the Mahathir Global Peace Foundation, which was formed to contribute to worldwide peace efforts.

Mahathir Mohamad was Malaysia's Prime Minister for 22 years before he stepped down. Describing Mandela as a friend, Mohamad said it was appropriate that the South African leader was the first recipient of the award as he was truly a man of peace.

"I remember the first time I met Mandela in Zambia just after he was released from prison in Robben Island," he said.

"I was expecting a broken or bitter man for he had spent 27 years in jail. Instead, I found a man who was extremely rational and who thought of nothing but the welfare and well-being of the people in Africa,” he added.

Mohamad said Mandela should have been bitter but the former President told him that he had made friends with the jailers who provided him with newspapers. The Mahathir Award for Global Peace will be presented annually to recognize those who have made valiant efforts in promoting peace.


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