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Interparliamentary relations with South Africa were frozen during the long apartheid years; the European Parliament, instead, supported the anti-apartheid struggle and financed humanitarian aid via NGO's in South Africa. This demonstration of solidarity on the European side became most evident when, in 1989, the EP honoured Nelson Mandela with the Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought, despite him being still in jail.
With the dawn of democracy in 1994, the European Parliament immediately created a Delegation for Relations with South Africa. Since then, Interparliamentary dialogue with the "rainbow country" has been held regularly and alternatively in Europe and South Africa. As the EU is now about to enter into a strategic partnership with South Africa - considering it an "anchor country" for the whole continent - the EP Delegation provides the upgraded EU-South Africa relation with a dedicated and clear parliamentary dimension.