South Africa honours national heroes

29 April 2011

President Jacob Zuma bestowed national orders, the country’s highest civilian honour, on 33 South Africans and four foreigners on Wednesday for outstanding achievements and contributions to freedom and development in South Africa.

“We are honouring a distinguished group of men and women, who have displayed tremendous love and dedication for this country and its people,” Zuma said at a ceremony at the Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria on Wednesday evening, the first time the awards were held in conjunction with the country’s Freedom Day celebrations.

“We are holding this ceremony on this important day because the National Orders recognize the highest contribution that individuals can make to the success or well-being of this country and her people.”

The Order of Mendi for bravery was awarded posthumously to Sarah Gertrude Mary Christina Holland for providing shelter to orphaned children while also sacrificing her own life to save the lives of children who were in her care following a fire that broke out at her house last year.

The Order of Mendi also went to the Matola Raid Martyrs, 15 cadres of Umkhonto weSizwe, the former ANC military wing, who were killed by the apartheid regime in Matola, Mozambique in 1981.

Recipients of the Order of Ikhamanga, awarded for excellence in the arts, journalism, culture, literature and sport, included renowned photographer Sam Nzima, who took the famous photo of Mbuyisa Makhubu carrying the slumped and bleeding Hector Peterson during the 1976 Soweto student uprisings.

Another recipient was athlete Josiah Thugwane, winner of gold in the marathon at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

“I’m happy to have been remembered,” the 40-year-old Thugwane told BuaNews. Thugwane said more should be done to develop athletics at school level, seeing that most children take part in track only at the beginning of the school year. “We need development,” said Thugwane.

Among the recipients of the Order of the Baobab, awarded for distinguished service in business and science, was Reginald Dudley Ford for his work in the field of education and contribution to community service.

The Order of Luthuli is awarded for extraordinary contributions to democracy, human rights and nation-building. Margaret Gazo, one of the women who participated in the Women’s March to the Union Buildings in 1956, held in protest against apartheid’s pass laws, was honoured posthumously.

The award also went posthumously to Tsietsi Mashinini for his bravery and leadership in the 1976 Soweto student uprisings.

The Order of the Companions of OR Tambo, which is awarded to foreign nationals, went to Helene Passtoors for her contribution to South Africa’s struggle for liberation democracy and human rights, as well as to former Brazilian President Lula da Silva for his contribution to South Africa’s democracy and for the creation of a just and equitable system of global governance.

The full list of recipients can be viewed here.

Source: BuaNews