Jerry Dammers gets South Africa honour for Free Nelson Mandela

Jerry Dammers Jerry Dammers twice met Nelson Mandela on his visits to the UK

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The songwriter behind the anti-apartheid protest anthem Free Nelson Mandela is to receive an honour from the President of South Africa.

Jerry Dammers will be given the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo, at a ceremony in Pretoria on Sunday.

The South African government said his award was for writing the 1984 hit and his Artists Against Apartheid work.

Other people also being honoured at the ceremony include former Labour leader Lord Kinnock.

Mr Dammers wrote Free Nelson Mandela with Coventry-based band The Special AKA (formerly the Specials) in 1984.

At that time Mr Mandela had been in prison for more than two decades and it would be another six years before he was released.

The Specials Jerry Dammers (second left) was a founding member of The Specials, who later became The Special AKA

The single originally reached number nine in the UK charts and number one in New Zealand but was played around the world.

It was banned by South Africa's white-minority government but illicit copies were widely listened to until apartheid was lifted in 1994.

The ceremony is part of events that are being held in South Africa this weekend to mark Freedom Day, the 20th anniversary of the country's first democratic elections, in which Mr Mandela was elected president.

Mr Mandela died in December 2013.

The government said the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo "recognises eminent foreign nationals for friendship shown to South Africa".

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