Orders for the extraordinary

29 September 2005

South African Nobel prize winners JM Coetzee and Aaron Klug have been awarded the Order of Mapungubwe by President Thabo Mbeki.

“John Maxwell Coetzee is awarded the Order of Mapungubwe in gold for his exceptional contribution in the field of literature and for putting South Africa on the world stage,” said Frank Chikane, chancellor of national orders, at the awards ceremony at the Union Buildings in Tshwane on Tuesday.

Lithuanian-born Klug received the Order of Mapungubwe in the gold class for his contributions to medicine. Coetzee won the Nobel prize for literature in 2002, and Klug the Nobel prize for chemistry in 1982.

At the latest national orders ceremony, 24 South Africans and one foreigner were awarded the highest civilian honours the country can bestow: the Order of Mapungubwe, Order of Ikhamanga, Order of the Companions of OR Tambo and Mendi Decoration for Bravery.

Also on the orders list were actor John Kani, playwright Athol Fugard, geneticist Himladevi Soodyall, poet NP van Wyk Louw, soccer star Lucas Radebe and journalist Henry “Mr Drum” Nxumalo.

“For all time, these men and women will be honoured as esteemed members of these orders, subject to the precedence and authority of our national anthem, our national flag and our national coat of arms, which represent the highest repositories of our common nationhood,” Mbeki said at the ceremony.

He said the recipients deserved high tribute for what they had done to enrich others’ lives and “to make it possible for our diverse nation to proclaim itself an adherent of the ancient values of ubuntu”.

“The people of South Africa salute and express their humble gratitude through the national orders to the distinguished men and women who are the stars of our firmament, by admitting them to the ranks of those who belong to the esteemed national orders of the Cradle of Humanity, the high pedestals on which will stand the human beings who have made it possible for us to live and develop in a world of freedom, without the fetters of oppression,” Mbeki said.

The full list of the latest recipients is as follows:

Order of Mapungubwe Order of Mapungubwe
The Order of Mapungubwe is awarded to South African citizens for excellence and exceptional achievement.

JM Coetzee (gold) – for his exceptional contribution in the field of literature. Coetzee’s first book, Dusklands, was published in 1974. In the Heart of the Country (1977) won South Africa’s then principal literary award, the CNA Prize. Waiting for the Barbarians (1980) received international notice. His reputation was confirmed by The Life and Times of Michael K (1983), which won the Booker Prize. It was followed by Foe (1986), Age of Iron (1990), The Master of Petersburg (1994), and Disgrace (1999), which again won the Booker Prize. He was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 2002.

Aaron Klug (gold) – for his contributions to medicine. The Lithuanian-born British physicist and chemist moved to South Africa at the age of two. He graduated with a science degree from Wits University and studied crystallography at UCT before moving to England. He won the 1982 Nobel prize in chemistry for his development of crystallographic electron microscopy and was knighted in 1988.

Frank Nabarro (silver) – for contributions to science. Nabarro is professor emeritus in the department of physics at Wits University and one of the world’s experts in dislocation theory. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of London, a foreign associate of the US National Academy of Engineering, a platinum medallist of the British Institute of Materials, a former president of the Royal Society of South Africa and a founder member of the Academy of Science of South Africa.

Tebello Nyokong (bronze) – for contributions to science. Nyokong is a professor in physical inorganic chemistry at Rhodes University. She won the Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Senior Research Award in 2003, and the Woman of the Year Award for Science and Technology in 2004.

Himladevi Soodyall (bronze) – for contributions to science. Soodyall is director of the MRC/NHLS/Wits Human Genomic Diversity and Disease Research Unit at Wits University. Her research has shown that living Khoisan populations have retained some of the ancestral DNA signatures found in modern humans, making southern Africa the most likely geographic region for the origin of our species.

Order of iKhamanga Order of iKhamanga
The Order of iKhamanga is awarded to South African citizens who have excelled in the fields of arts, culture, literature, music, journalism and sport.

NP van Wyk Louw (gold) – posthumously awarded for his contribution to literature and promotion of African languages. An academic, Louw’s prestige derived in particular from his exceptional poetic skills. The Rijksuniversiteit of Utrecht in the Netherlands, which rarely confers honorary degrees, awarded him an honorary doctorate. He won the most prestigious Afrikaans literary prize, the Hertzog Prize, five times. Although a fierce opponent of Hendrik Verwoerd’s apartheid regime, Louw viewed himself as an Afrikaans nationalist. He was one of the first thinkers to support language rights for the speakers of African languages.

Archibald Campbell Jordan (gold) – posthumously awarded for his contribution to literature. A novelist, literary historian and intellectual pioneer of African studies in South Africa, Jordan’s publications include Kwezo Mpindo zeTsitsa, a book on short stories published in 1973 as Tales from Southern Africa, and a pioneering critical study entitled Towards an African Literature: the Emergence of Literary Form in Xhosa (1972).

Lucas Radebe (silver) – for his achievements in sport. Radebe is a former captain of the South African soccer squad, former captain of Leeds United, and South Africa’s most capped soccer player.

Henry Nxumalo (silver) – posthumously awarded for excellence in South African journalism. Nxumalo, affectionately known as “Mr Drum”, was a journalist for the legendary Drum magazine of 1950s South Africa. His work brought to life both the hardships and absurdities of life under apartheid and the hope and vibrancy of the mixed-race community of Sophiatown.

Allina Ndebele (silver) – for her contribution to the arts. Her tapestries depict Bible stories and African myths and legends.

Sophie Mgcina (silver) – her excellent musical contribution to, and achievement in, theatre and film. Mgcina is a veteran actress who has appeared in the films A Good Man in Africa (1994), A Dry White Season (1989), Cry Freedom (1987) and Dingaka (1965).

Stephanus Lombaard (silver) – for his athletic achievements and for serving as a role model to South Africans. Lombaard is the winner of seven gold and two silver medals at the paralympic games in 1996, 2000 and 2004.

John Kani (silver) – for his contribution to theatre. An acclaimed actor, director and playwright, Kani is executive trustee of the Market Theatre Foundation, founder and director of the Market Theatre Laboratory and chairman of the National Arts Council of SA.

Athol Fugard (silver) – for his contribution to theatre. South Africa’s most famous playwright, Fugard’s work mainly explores the tensions of life under apartheid and includes Boesman and Lena, Sizwe Bansi is Dead and the more recent Exits and Entrances. He describes himself as an Afrikaner writing in English.

Peter Edward Clarke (silver) – for his contribution to the arts and literature. Clarke is a poet, writer and visual artist.

Marjorie Wallace (bronze) – posthumously awarded for her contribution to the arts. Born in Scotland, Wallace promoted, tutored and advised black and coloured artists.

Mahlatini and the Mahotella Queens (bronze) – Nobesuthu Gertrude Mbadu, Hilda Tloubatla and Nontsomi Mildred Mangxola of the group Mahotella Queens were awarded for their contributions to traditional music, with their long-time collaborator Mahlatini Nkabinde receiving a posthumous award.

Tebogo Mogkalagadi (bronze) – for his outstanding achievement in paralympics and serving as a role model to all South Africans. Mogkalagadi is a paralympic gold medallist.

Mendi Decoration for Bravery Mendi Decoration for Bravery
The Mendi Decoration for Bravery is awarded to South African citizens who have performed an extraordinary act of bravery that placed their lives in great danger, or who lost their own lives including in trying to save the life of another person, or by saving property, in or outside South Africa.

Solomon Mahlangu (gold) – posthumously awarded for his role in the freedom struggle. He was executed by the apartheid government in 1979.

Grant Kirkland (silver) – for saving the life of a fellow surfer who was attacked by a shark in April 2004.

Simon Mthombeni (bronze) – for saving the victims of a light aeroplane crash near Pretoria in 1991.

Order of the Companions of OR Tambo Order of the Companions of OR Tambo
The Order of the Companions of OR Tambo is awarded to heads of state and other foreign dignitaries for friendship shown to South Africa. It is an order of peace, cooperation and active expression of solidarity and support.

Sheik Yusuf (gold) – posthumously awarded for his contribution to the struggle against colonialism. Yusuf fought Dutch colonialism in southeast Asia during the 1600s. He was exiled from Western Java to the Cape in 1694 by the Dutch East India Company for his allegiance to Javanese ruler Sultan Ageng. Yusuf’s residence at Zandfliet farm in the Cape subsequently became a place of pilgrimage for Muslim people in the area.


  • 2004 national orders awards – I
  • 2004 national orders awards – II
  • 2003 national orders awards
  • 2002 national orders awards
  • South Africa’s national orders
  • Orders for ‘ordinary people’


SouthAfrica.info reporter

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