South African President Thabo Mbeki has paid tribute to Ghana which celebrates 50 years of independence (from Britain) on March 6.
In his internet column, ANC Today, Mbeki noted that 50 years ago as Ghana prepared to accede to independence, the all-white Parliament in South Africa was engaged in an intense and protracted debate of the Flags Amendment Bill.
The Bill had been introduced by a member of the ruling National Party to end the use of the British Union Jack as a South African national flag.
Mbeki pointed out that the National Party realised that there was a lot of symbolism attached to Ghana hoisting its own national flag and bringing down the Union Jack.
He quotes a then ruling party MP JLV Liebenberg as saying: "Its dignity is symbolised in its own flag."
However, Ghana played a key role in having South Africa withdraw from the British Commonwealth even though National Party's white supremacists had also labelled it a primitive state, noted Mbeki.
Ironically another National Party MP, PMK le Roux, said: "What about the latest independent state which is also going to become a member of the Commonwealth, namely Ghana? Are we to take second place to the most primitive state that has obtained its independence on the continent of Africa, a native state?"
Then leader Kwame Nkrumah - whom Mbeki referred to as messianic - wanted the issue of apartheid thrashed out at a Commonwealth leaders meeting in 1961.
It led to white Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd withdrawing South Africa from the Commonwealth.
Mbeki argued that Ghana had acted as a symbol for the liberation movement.
"We [the liberation movements] inherited the slogan 'Forward ever, backward never' from Nkrumah's Convention People's Party.
"Our movement and the people of South Africa extend heartfelt congratulations to the sister people of Ghana on the historic occasion of the 50th anniversary of their independence. Forward ever, backward never."