Champions of freedom, peace, human rights, social justice and equality is how President Cyril Ramaphosa described the recipients of this year’s National Orders.
The President was speaking at an award ceremony to honour esteemed South Africans and eminent foreign nationals at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria on Thursday.
National Orders are the highest awards that a country, through its President, bestows on its citizens and eminent foreign nationals.
President Ramaphosa said that recipients of the National Orders have honoured and upheld the values which combined represent the highest ideals of humanity.
“Through these national orders, we recognise many outstanding individuals who defied great odds and made immense sacrifices not only for us to attain freedom, but so that such freedom is meaningful,” he said.
The President conferred the Order of Mendi for Bravery, the Order of Ikhamanga, the Order of the Baobab, the Order of Luthuli and the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo.
Conferring the Order of Mendi for Bravery, the President said that the awards of this Order are made to South Africans who have performed acts of bravery, often putting their lives in great danger or losing their lives in their efforts to save others.
“The awards are made to people who, in the most exceptional manner possible, have placed the lives of their fellow men and women above any risk that they themselves faced,” he said.
Conferring the Order of Ikhamanga, which is awarded to South Africans who have excelled in the field of arts, culture, literature, music, journalism and sport, the president said that this is awarded to some of our country’s most dedicated and outstanding athletes, to musicians whose brought us comfort and hope during the darkest days of apartheid.
“We confer it on the artists who make our democracy enjoyable and who remain the conscience of the nation, reminding us through their works to fulfil, and not betray, the promise of freedom. These are the people who use their tremendous talent not only to entertain, provoke and inspire, but to strive for a better, more just and humane society,” he said.
The Order of the Baobab is awarded to South African citizens for distinguished service in the fields of business and the economy, science, medicine, and for technological innovation and community service.
The President said that these people, some of whom are unfortunately no longer with us are pioneers who laid the path along which others would follow.
“We honour those who worked from the ashes of apartheid to build a new society in which the economy is truly inclusive and the country’s wealth is shared among all its people. These are people who challenge prejudice, who fight for people living with disabilities and for all those who are marginalised because of nothing other than the circumstances of their birth,” he said.
The Order of Luthuli is awarded to South Africans who have served the interests of South Africa by making a meaningful contribution in the struggle for democracy, human rights, nation-building, justice, peace and conflict resolution.
“These are the peacemakers, who walk into battle armed only with the conviction that there is no dispute too great or complex that it cannot be resolved peacefully through dialogue. They are the jurists who believe in transformative constitutionalism.
"They see the purpose of law to be the pursuit of justice in the interests of the dispossessed, the injured, the wronged and the vulnerable. They are the women and men who confront oppression and exploitation wherever they manifest,” the President said.
Speaking on the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo, President Ramaphosa said that the country honours these remarkable human beings who stood alongside the country’s people, at home and in exile, who provided material and other assistance to students, activists and combatants.
“In doing so, we express our sincere and eternal gratitude to them for joining a struggle that was not theirs, in a land far from their own, and for giving so much, for so long, to so many,” he said.
President Ramaphosa congratulated all the recipients who were honoured today and further said this is a roll call of heroes and heroines, of people who have been prepared to devote their talent, their energy, their lives to the affirmation and the advancement of others.
Source: South African Government News Agency