18 June 2004
Forty-seven men and women have received South Africa’s highest honours for exceptional service rendered to their fellow countrymen and for the role they played in South Africa’s fight for freedom.
President Thabo Mbeki bestowed the Order of the Baobab, Order of Luthuli, and Order of the Companions of OR Tambo on 25 South Africans and 22 foreign nationals at a gala ceremony at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Youth Day, 16 June.
The recipients included diplomats, activists, trade unionists and “ordinary” people who made various extraordinary contributions to South Africa’s destiny.
Order of the Baobab
Mbeki presented nine South Africans with the Order of the Baobab for distinguished service that went beyond the call of duty. They included:
Brigalia Bam – the chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission was honoured for her contribution to the democracy and the upliftment of women.
Mirriam Cele – for devoting her adult life to providing homes for abused and abandoned children and Aids orphans.
Frene Ginwala – South Africa’s former Speaker of Parliament was honoured for her contribution to the democracy and the upliftment of women.
Allan Hendrickse – the reverend-turned-politician was honoured for the part he played in the struggle for democracy.
Fabian Ribeiro, a Mamelodi doctor who was shot dead by security police in 1986, was honoured for his stance against apartheid and his role in community upliftment projects.
Mpho Sebanyoni-Mothlasedi – a nurse who quit her to set up a hospice at Temba outside Hammanskraal.
Cabangokuhle Zulu – a social worker who helped black veterans of World War II get welfare and pension payouts.
Order of Luthuli
Mbeki presented 16 South Africans with the Order of Luthuli for for outstanding contributions to democracy, nation-building, human rights, justice and peace. They included:
Sol Plaatje (1876-1932) – politician, journalist, human rights campaigner, novelist and translator at the turn of the 20th century. A founder member of the African National Congress (ANC) in 1912, Plaatje spent lengthy periods away from home to campaign against laws aimed at the disenfranchisecment of his people. He was the first black South African to publish a novel in English (“Mhudi”) and to translate Shakespearean plays into Setswana. He was also one of the most influential of early African newspaper editors, and the first person ever to record Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika.
ZK Matthews (1925-1983) – distinguished Fort Hare academic, ANC chairman and treason triallist, ZK Matthews was one of the outstanding African academics and politicians of 20th century South Africa. He was also one of South Africa’s Christian leaders who saw to it that the gospel “escaped” from the hands of missionaries in order to be appropriated authentically by African communities.
Thomas Nkobi (1922-1994) – the former ANC treasurer general and MP was a senior leader of the organisation and a key figure in the liberation struggle.
Chief Frans Rasimphi Tshivhase – paramount chief of the Tshivhase people from 1930 until his death in 1952, credited with frustrating the apartheid government’s attempts to dispossess his people of their land.
The Order of Luthuli was also bestowed on veteran anti-apartheid activists Amina Cachalia, Hilda Bernstein, Laloo Chiba, Mapetla Mohapi, Josie Mpama, Billy Nair, and Rita Ndzanga.
Former Intelligence Minister Joe Nhlanhla, late Safety and Security Minister Steve Tshwete, former Pan Africanist Congress leader Clarence Makwetu, and the African National Congress’s former chief representative in the UK and Western Europe, Reginald September, also received the Order of Luthuli.
Order of the Companions of OR Tambo
The recipients of South Africa’s highest civilian award for foreign nationals went to 22 people who, through their roles in the struggle against colonialism worldwide, served as inspiration for the fight against apartheid. They included:
- Marti Ahtisaari – former UN commissioner who helped negotiate a settlement for Namibia’s independence.
- Salvador Allende – Chile’s first socialist president, killed in 1973 when his offices were bombarded during a coup.
- Kofi Annan – United Nations secretary-general since 1997.
- Ahmed Ben Bella – first president of independent Algeria.
- Amilcar Cabral – activist against Portuguese colonisation in Africa, murdered in Guinea in 1973.
- Martin Luther King Jnr – leading US black civil rights leader in the 1960s.
- Patrice Lumumba – first prime minister of independent Congo.
- Michael Manley – Jamaica’s prime minister from 1972 to 1980.
- Eduardo Mondlane – leader of the Mozambican liberation movement Frelimo, assassinated by the Portuguese secret police in Dar es Salaam in 1969.
- Agostinho Neto – Angola’s first post-colonial president and co-founder of the ruling MPLA.
- Kwame Nkrumah – first head of independent Ghana and one of the founders of the Organisation of African Unity.
- Julius Nyerere – founding president of Tanzania.
- Salim Ahmed Salim – former Tanzanian prime minister and OAU secretary-general from 1989 to 2001.Sweden’s Reiulf Steen and Thornvald Stoltenberg were among the other recipients of the order.
Mbeki said the recipients of the orders stood out as beacons to guide South Africa on its journey to freedom, justice and equality.
“Regardless of the long road we have to travel to translate this vision into reality, the people of South Africa are convinced that they must walk along the only highway in their universe on whose paved stones the words are engraved – we are one people, despite our diversity.”
- 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