PRETORIA – President Jacob Zuma, in his capacity as Grand Patron of the National Orders, on Friday bestowed awards on a long list of South African and foreign recipients at a prestigious event held at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria.
“Welcome to this important day on the national calendar of our country. On this day, we celebrate freedom by recognising distinguished persons in our country and friends of our country from abroad, who have contributed in various ways to advancing humanity,” Zuma said as he addressed guests in the packed room.
“We are honoured today to recognise these men and women locally and from abroad, who served our country with great distinction in various fields and elevated our standing in the international community.”
National Orders are the highest awards that a country, through its president, bestows on its citizens and eminent foreign nationals.
Zuma said the awards are based on respective fields, and the extent of human endeavour and contribution.
“The Order of Ikhamanga is awarded to South Africans who have excelled in the field of arts, culture, literature, music, journalism and sport. This year it is conferred on nine recipients for their outstanding contribution in their respective fields,” said Zuma.
“The recipients include Olympic stars in athletics and in water sport, and those who deployed their artistic skills of poetry, journalism, oratory, and writings to highlight the apartheid injustices.”
Record-breaking South African international track and field sprinter Wayde van Niekerk scooped the Order of Ikhamanga in Gold. Van Niekerk was, however, not present to receive his award from Zuma.
Next up, Zuma bestowed the Order of the Baobab which recognises South Africans who have contributed to community service, business and economy, science, medicine and technological innovation.
“This year we confer it on five recipients, and we commend them for their exemplary and inspirational contribution in their fields,” said Zuma.
“The recipients in this category are recognised for their various roles at different historical epochs since the turn of the 20th century up to the present, in improving education, community development and women empowerment, and lately scientific research, as other frontiers of empowering black people against systemic injustices occasioned by apartheid over many years.”
The other category was the Order of Mapungubwe which represents excellence, and is awarded to South African citizens “who have made an impact internationally and served the national interest”.
“The recipients in this category are mainly those who have excelled in scientific research and technology and attained vast international recognition, thus making this country immensely proud,” said Zuma.
“This year it goes to two young people with great achievements in science and technology, which inspires other youth in the country to follow their footsteps.”
The Order of Luthuli is conferred on South Africans who have served the country through “meaningful contribution in any of the following areas: struggle for democracy, human rights, nation-building, justice, peace and conflict resolution”.
“The nine recipients in this category include an interesting formidable combination of those who fought apartheid though community development, advocating for inclusive higher education, through underground sabotage activities, through mobilising international financial resources to assist in political trials, and through confronting the callous injustices meted out by notorious apartheid municipalities,” said Zuma.
On the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo, Zuma noted that the struggle for democracy in South Africa received widespread international support, and that the country has equally received immense international goodwill and support in the subsequent challenging journey of entrenching democracy and equality after 1994.
“We remain grateful for that gesture. Through our foreign policy we are also continually advancing the frontiers of peace, prosperity, stability and international security. The Order of the Companions of OR Tambo recognises eminent foreign nationals for friendship shown to South Africa,” he said.
“It is therefore an Order of peace, cooperation and active expression of solidarity and support. Oliver Tambo, a struggle stalwart who would have turned hundred years this year, was a refined diplomat who guided the ANC in its exile years and international solidarity activities over a long time.”
This year’s Order of Companions of OR Tambo was bestowed on Maurice Bogatsu of Botswana (posthumously), Euzhan Palcy of Martinique and former president and prime minister of East Timor, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao.
– African News Agency (ANA)