SA heroes honoured at National Orders ceremony

Friday, April 28, 2017

Pretoria – “I feel elated. My hard work has been recognised by people in our country,” legendary photographer Peter Magubane said on Friday.

“People now understand why Magubane was carrying his camera. They [apartheid police] tried to kill me but the Lord would not let them. They put me in solitary confinment for 586 days but I came out stronger. I said to myself, ‘it is only the Lord who will keep me away from what I love’,” Magubane said.

As one of South Africa’s most prominent news photographers, Magubane, was on Friday honoured with the Order of Luthuli in silver.

Magubane was among the 22 ANC political trialists of 1969 who were bestowed with the order by President Jacob Zuma at the 2017 National Orders ceremony in Pretoria.

Described by President Zuma as an important day on the calendar of South Africa, National Orders are the highest honour that a country, through the President, bestows on its citizens and eminent foreign nationals.

The awards were bestowed by the President a day after South Africans celebrated Freedom Day, the day on which in 1994 all citizens across the colour spectrum cast their vote for the very first time.

Magubane, who covered both the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 and the famous Rivonia trial in 1964, said he was yet to put down his camera after all these years.

“I have not given up. I have not put down my camera. I am still working but I don’t do riots. I do things like sunsets,” he said while also urging the youth to not be afraid of hard work.

Friday’s award ceremony honoured South African citizens, including sporting stars as well eminent foreign nationals for their contribution to building a free, democratic South Africa.

“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.

“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,” said the President.

The awards are based on respective fields, and the extent of human endeavour and contribution.

This year’s Order of Mapungubwe -- which represents excellence, and is awarded to South African citizens for who have made an impact internationally and served the national interest -- was bestowed on two young individuals.

The recipients in this category are mainly those who have excelled in scientific research and technology and attained vast international recognition.

“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,” said President Zuma.

The Order of Mapungubwe in silver went to Professor Fulufhelo Nelwamondo and Siyabulela Lethuxolo Xuza.

Professor Nelwamondo said he was honoured to receive the award.

“I feel grateful and humbled. I didn’t expect this to happen at such a young age,” said the 34-year-old, who is an executive director at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and visiting professor of engineering at the University of Johannesburg.

He said that he hopes his award will be an inspiration to other young South Africans. 

The Order of Ikhamanga was awarded to South Africans who have excelled in the field of arts, culture, literature, music journalism and sport.  In 2017, the order was conferred on nine recipients for their outstanding contribution in their respective fields.

Among the recipients of this order was Olympic Gold medallist Wayde van Niekerk, who could not make it to the ceremony.

Order of Baobab

The Order of the Baobab recognises South Africans who have contributed to community service, business and economy, science, medicine and technological innovation.

This year the order was bestowed on five recipients, three of which were bestowed posthumously.

Order of Luthuli

The Order of Luthuli was conferred to nine recipients. The award is conferred to South Africans who have served the country through meaningful contribution in areas such as the struggle for democracy, human rights, nation-building and justice.

President Zuma said South Africa’s struggle for democracy received widespread international support.

 “Our country has equally received immense international goodwill and support in the subsequent challenging journey of entrenching democracy and equality after 1994,” said President Zuma.

Order of the Companions of OR Tambo in silver

The Order of the Companions of OR Tambo recognises eminent foreign nationals for friendship shown to South Africa.

“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,” said the President.

Some of the eminent recipients of this high honour included His Excellency, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao, an East Timorese politician.

The 23rd National Awards ceremony were among others attended by Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa, Sport and Recreation Deputy Minister Gert Oosthuizen and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Des Van Rooyen. –