Celebrating our national heroes

South Africa – The Good News
By BuaNews

Paralympian Ernst van Dyk receives the Order of Ikhamanga from President Jacob Zuma
Paralympian Ernst van Dyk receives the Order of Ikhamanga from President Jacob Zuma

President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday night honoured South African heroes, past and present, when he bestowed national orders on a number of outstanding individuals.

Paralympian Ernst van Dyk receives the Order of Ikhamanga from President Jacob Zuma. The National Orders are the highest honour awarded to individuals who have excelled in shaping the future of South Africa in various respects.

Among the recipients of the orders bestowed at the Presidential Guest House during a prestigious ceremony were African jazz legends Hugh Masekela and Jonas Gwangwa, African Queen of Ndebele Music Peki Nothembi Mkhwebane, paralympian Ernst van Dyk and theatre champion Winston Ntshona.

The four were all honoured with the Order of Ikhamanga which recognises excellence in the fields of arts, culture, literature, music, journalism and sport. Ikhamanga is derived from the Xhosa name for the Strelitzia flower.

An award was conferred on veteran journalist and former City Press editor Percy Qoboza posthumously for his contribution to journalism.

Former President Thabo Mbeki first awarded the orders in 2002 when he honoured 20 individuals from SA and abroad. It was also for the first time that the orders were presented on Freedom Day.

Zuma, who hinted that 27th April could become a permanent day for the award ceremony, said given the immense importance of the day, all South Africans could remember where they were on 27 April 1994. “It is the perfect day to reward achievement, excellence, sacrifice, patriotism and dedication,” he said.

The number of recipients has grown remarkably since the inception of the orders as Zuma awarded 32 certificates and medals during Tuesday’s ceremony.

The late struggle veteran Harry Gwala was honoured with the Order of Mendi for bravery. Zuma described Gwala as “the lion of the Midlands who fought for freedom tirelessly and with everything at his disposal until the end of his days”.

Gwala was one of the organisers of the national stay-away of workers in 1950. He was consistently listed under the Suppression of Communism Act and was later served with a two-year banning order which limited his movement to the Pietermaritzburg area.

After 1994, Gwala became a member of the KwaZulu-Natal legislature and served as an ANC Chief Whip.

The Order of Mapungubwe, of the Baobab and of the Companion of OR Tambo are the highest awards bestowed by the president to citizens and eminent foreign nationals for outstanding achievements.

They were introduced in 2002 and replaced the old awards, the Orders of the Southern Cross, of Good Hope, of the Star of South Africa and of Meritorious Service, as well as the Woltemade Cross for Bravery.

Jacques Rogge who, through the International Olympic Committee turned the world of Olympics against apartheid South Africa, FIFA President Sepp Blatter and Confederation of African Football president Issa Hayatou all walked away with the order of OR.

Blatter was praised for helping South Africa and Africa secure the rights to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup for the first time on the continent.

Others in the OR category included President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos of Angola, the late George Houser who was at the forefront of the civil rights and solidarity movements in the United States and Sadako Ogata as head of the United Nations delegation to the Codesa multi-party talks.

Angola became home to many politicians during the struggle for freedom in South Africa and Dos Santos is credited for assisting the ANC underground members in their fight against the apartheid regime.

Zuma said South Africa was humbled by the sacrifices made by these non-South Africans in the fight against the oppressive regime. “We were not alone in our struggle. At every moment we were joined by men and women of outstanding integrity and humanity from all over the world,” he said.

The individuals made the sacrifice knowing well that their activities were a guaranteed route to prison, added Zuma.

Other recipients last night included Phila Portian Ndwandwe, Harry Themba Gwala, Kgosi Galeshewe, G5 unit of Umkhonto Wesizwe, Makhosi Nyoka – who received the Order of Mendi for Bravery.

The Order of Ikhamanga went to Ernst van Dyk, Grant Khomo, Peki Mkhwebane, Makana Football Association, Winston Ntshona, Percy Qoboza, Jonas Gwangwa and Hugh Masekela.

The Order of Baobab was received by Malebone Luthuli, Malefu Mphathane, Imitiaz Suliman, Vincent Naidoo and James Dwane.

Sonia Bunting, Dorothy Cleminshaw, Nongolozi Mngomezulu, Jabulani Nxumalo, James Vigne and Stephen Dlamini received the Order of Luthuli.

The Order of Maphungubwe went to Monique Dahl, Douglas Stuart Butterworth and Johann Lutjeharms.

The Order of the Companions of OR Tambo was received by Vernon Berrange, George Houser, Lord Joel Joffe, Herbert and Joy Kaiser, Sadako Ogata, Joseph Sepp Blatter, President Jose Dos Santos, Issa Hayatou and Jacques Rogge.

The event, which has become an important feature on the South African calendar, was attended by various Cabinet ministers, business people and leaders of different political parties.