Benjamin Zander, a Cambridge resident and conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, was presented with the Extraordinary Lifetime Achievement Award at the ABSA Achievement Awards on Sept. 8 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The award is given annually to celebrate outstanding South Africans in the fields of business, arts, humanitarian work and community service.

Zander was recognized for his contributions in the spheres of music, culture and leadership.

This is the first time that the award has been given to a non-South African. Previous recipients of the award include Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu.

Zander has visited South Africa on five different occasions. On one of his most recent trips in 2008, he spent three weeks in South Africa with his partner Rosamund Zander, during which they led 97 different events, including a keynote speech in the South African Parliament, speeches to corporate leaders, youth groups and other organizations as well as musical performances.

“Nelson Mandela understood that leadership is like conducting an orchestra — every voice has to be heard,” said Zander. “He energized hope and inspired South Africans to work together for a harmonious future. It will be a thrill to return after seven years to re-engage with young leaders and musicians throughout the country in bringing possibility alive and present.”

This year Zander celebrates his 80th birthday and the 40th anniversary of the Boston Philharmonic, which was founded in 1979.