Gaborone - Botswana was an example of democracy and development that could serve as a model in the rebirth of Africa, Nelson Mandela said on Thursday.
"The manner in which the people of Botswana have combined the modern forms of democracy with the long-held traditions of indigenous democracy is an example that can be looked to in the current rebirth of our continent," he said at the National Stadium in Gaborone.
He was receiving an honorary Doctorate of Law from the University of Botswana.
The citation, presented by history professor Leonard Ncgoncgo, said: "We are honouring a man of great stature who sacrificed so much for the freedom of the people of South Africa and for the achievement and consolidation of peace, reconciliation and democracy in this region."
The award was conferred upon Mandela by Botswana's President Festus Mogae, chancellor of the university.
Mandela said Botswana occupied a special position in the hearts of all South Africans. Botswana had been like an elder brother to them.
"For me to be accorded such an honour by your university has even more special significance for us," he said.
In the five years that South Africa had been privileged to be among the esteemed ranks of heads of state and government of the southern African region, Botswana had been in many respects an elder brother.
"Botswana's democracy served as a guiding star to us as we falteringly took our first steps towards our new democracy," Mandela said. "It was with pride that we could point to the example of our neighbour as an example of African democracy that had sustained itself over time."
The economic recovery that the region was now observing was long foreshadowed by the economic progress and stability of Botswana.
"That the seat of our regional organisation, the Southern African Development Community, is here in Botswana is no meaningless coincidence. It signified our recognition of the historical role played by Botswana in our development and the example it provided," he said.