By Director-General in The Presidency Dr Cassius Lubisi
Every year South Africa pays homage to its heroes and heroines who have played a part in making South Africa great. These selfless individuals have helped to create a nation renowned for its freedom and culture of human rights.
The bestowing of National Orders by the President Jacob Zuma has become a landmark occasion in our democratic era. It is our highest symbols of pride and honour.
Moreover, we acknowledge the extraordinary human spirit and individual effort in defining our nation, recognises the pioneers in science, the arts, business, social justice and freedom and democracy.
As a result of efforts by many of this year’s recipients, we are firmly on a path towards a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.
In preparing to confer the 2016 National Orders, President Jacob Zuma said: “The recipients of the National Orders have each contributed in some way to the attainment of this goal. We reiterate that South Africa is a much better place to live in now than it was before 1994.”
The President added: “We thank all South Africans as well as our friends from all over Africa and the world, for their contribution to making our country the success that it has been since 1994.”
Among this year’s 32 recipients is struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela who endured periods of detention but remained undeterred in the pursuit of a free democratic South Africa.
Madikizela-Mandela received the Order of Luthuli, awarded to South Africans for their meaningful contribution in the struggle for freedom, democracy, human rights, nation-building, justice, peace and conflict resolution.
Another recipient of the order was Suliman Saloojee (posthumous), who was instrumental in smuggling political activists out of the country and assisting those who were detained by the security police. Saloojee paid the ultimate price when he was murdered and thrown out of the seventh floor window from the special branch headquarters in Johannesburg.
Another struggle stalwart and former Member of Parliament Hermanus Loots, who died earlier this year, was also honoured with the Order of Mendi (Silver) for his commitment to the fight for freedom.
The President honoured journalist Zwelakhe Sisulu (posthumously) with the Order of Mapungubwe for using his craft to hold the apartheid state to account for human rights abuses. This order is awarded to South Africans for achievements that have made an impact internationally and who have served the interests of the country.
Sisulu was arrested on numerous occasions and was a founding editor of the New Nation. He was Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and received the prestigious Louis M. Lyons award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism.
Many artists used their trade to rally South Africans in the country’s darkest moments and the Order of Ikhamanga is bestowed on South African citizens who have excelled in the fields of arts, culture, literature, music, journalism and sport.
This year it was bestowed on Laurika Rauch who used her music to speak out against apartheid and Sylvia Glasser for her role teaching dance to black pupils during apartheid.
The award was conferred (in gold) to Benedict Wallet Vilakazi (posthumous) who was the first African to receive the degree of doctor of literature and a prize winner of the International Institute of African Languages and Cultures. He was also a distinguished writer of isiZulu poetry and wrote the first published book of isiZulu poems.
This year our highest honours were also awarded to Ndaliso Ngcayiya, Maqashu Leonard Mdingi, Dr Sizakele Sigxashe, Major General Peter Lesego Tshikare, Major General Jacqueline Sedibe, Peter Sello Motau,Dr Marguerite Poland, Professor Rosina Phakeng, Professor Helen Rees, Marina Nompinti Maponya, Brian Francis Bishop, Rev Dr Simon Gqubule,Mr Mac Maharaj, Mary Thipe, Amy Rietstein Thornton, John Zikhali, Msizi Harrison Dube, Cleopas Madoda Nsibande, Noureddine Djoudi, Thomas Hasani Maria Petronella Adriana Kint, Ulysses Modise, Joseph Nduli, Sam Ntuli and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet Jeria.
Our nation celebrates these exceptional recipients who show that we all have an important role to play in developing the country. They encourage us to rise above interests and with great maturity pull together to take our country forward.