Tears flow as youngsters join Zuma in Cape Town for duke of Edinburgh awards

2013-10-10 17:09

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Inmates and private school pupils shed tears in an emotional ceremony to honour South Africans between the ages of 14 and 24.

President Zuma shook the hands of 119 youngsters who clinched gold medals at the President’s Award for Youth Empowerment’s provincial ceremony at the Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town today.

The president was flanked by the earl and countess of Wessex, Prince Edward and Princess Sophie, who represented the duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Foundation, which offers the award in 144 countries.

Princess Sophie looked elegant in knee-high black lace and was seen laughing jovially with Zuma while Prince Edward delivered a speech.

One of the gold award winners, Jason Caldicott, of the Robertson Correctional Centre in the Western Cape, a former drug addict, delivered a moving testimony. He said he had come a long way to stand behind the podium and address the president.

Caldicott became involved with the President’s Award programme at the Brandvlei Maximum Security Centre.

“I was addicted to drugs and committed crime to fuel my addiction. The programme taught me self-belief again,” he told the audience inside the hotel’s ballroom.

There were young people from all walks of life, ranging from Robertson Correctional Centre inmates to Bridge House pupils from Franschhoek.

Ashley Backward travelled from Port Alfred by bus to shake the president’s hand in Cape Town.

“I am very excited. This looks very good on your CV, it is a good qualification to have,” he said.

The award programme requires participation in four key areas: community service, a group adventure journey, physical recreation and skills development.

There are an estimated 14 300 participants in South African schools, prisons, community youth groups and orphanages.

The award winners were treated to salmon canapés after the ceremony.

US President Barack Obama recently overnighted at the Table Bay Hotel’s opulent Table Mountain suite, which comes complete with a telescope and a baby grand piano for R23 000 a night.

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