STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- Black South African union leader Cyril Ramaphosa received the first Olof Palme Prize Saturday for his fight for 'human rights and dignity' in leading the longest strike by black workers in his country.
Ramaphosa, general secretary of South Africa's National Union of Mine Workers, was awarded the $15,800 prize for leading the most successful strike of black workers in the history of South Africa.
Lisbet Palme, wife of the assasinated Swedish prime minister, gave Ramaphosa, 34, the prize during a ceremony in Stockholm.
The prize is awarded by the board of the Olof Palme Memorial Fund, which was created three days after Palme was assassinated in 1986. The board intends to award a prize annually for international contributions to peace, disarmament and work against racism.
In announcing the first prize, the board cited Ramaphosa for the 'courage and wisdom the union showed in its struggle for human rights and dignity, with him as a leader.'
Between Aug. 9 and Aug. 30, Ramaphosa led 330,000 black workers who demanded higher pay and better working conditions in a strike that cost the mining companies $135 million.
Although the strikers' demands were not met, the work stoppage was the strongest show of black labor force ever, with no previous strike lasting more than two days.
Five people died and 500 were injured during the strike, but Ramaphosa pointed out that 800 blacks die every year in mining accidents.
Ramaphosa founded a union of 6,000 mine workers in 1982. The union has grown to 370,000 members and has become a powerful factor in South African politics.
At the ceremony, Ramaphosa said South African blacks had to carry the brunt of the struggle against the racist apartheid system, but that sanctions against Pretoria from foreign countires also help their struggle.
Ramaphosa said he would use his prize money to establish a scholarship fund for further education of black mine workers.
'We have to prepare ourselves for a society after apartheid,' he said. 'We know our fight will end with victory.'