Oration by the Grand Patron of National Orders, President Cyril Ramaphosa at the 2021 Presentation of National Orders,Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guest House, Tshwane
18 November 2021
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula,
Members of Parliament,
Chancellor of National Orders, Ms Phindile Baleni,
Members of the Advisory Council on National Orders,
Members of the diplomatic corps,
Distinguished Recipients of the National Orders together with their family members and friends,
Fellow South Africans,
Two years have passed since we last held a Presentation of National Orders.
Since we last gathered here for this noble purpose, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused great devastation in our country and across the world.
It has cost many lives, threatened many livelihoods, and disrupted almost every part of our lives.
While we acknowledge that the pandemic is still very much with us, we also recognise the important duty we have to honour those among us who have made outstanding contributions towards the betterment of our country and of the human condition.
Through these national orders we recognise many outstanding individuals who defied great odds and made immense sacrifices not only for us to attain freedom, but so that such freedom is meaningful.
The outstanding individuals that we honour here today are, in different ways, champions of freedom, peace, human rights, social justice and equality.
Regardless of the sphere of life in which they applied themselves, the recipients of the awards today have honoured and upheld the values which combined represent the highest ideals of humanity.
We are conferring today the Order of Mendi for Bravery.
Awards of this Order are made to South Africans who have performed acts of bravery, often putting their lives in great danger or losing their lives in their efforts to save others.
The awards are made to people who, in the most exceptional manner possible, have placed the lives of their fellow men and women above any risk that they themselves faced.
We are also conferring the Order of Ikhamanga, which is awarded to South Africans who have excelled in the field of arts, culture, literature, music, journalism and sport.
We confer it on some of our country’s most dedicated and outstanding athletes, to musicians whose brought us comfort and hope during the darkest days of apartheid.
We confer it on the artists who make our democracy enjoyable and who remain the conscience of the nation, reminding us through their works to fulfil, and not betray, the promise of freedom.
These are the people who use their tremendous talent not only to entertain, provoke and inspire, but to strive for a better, more just and humane society.
We honour the writers who have chronicled both the suffering of our people and their remarkable triumphs, their fears and their hopes, their everyday cares and their timeless desires.
The Order of the Baobab is awarded to South African citizens for distinguished service in the fields of business and the economy, science, medicine, and for technological innovation and community service.
These people – some of whom are unfortunately no longer with us – are pioneers who laid the path along which others would follow.
We honour those who worked from the ashes of apartheid to build a new society in which the economy is truly inclusive and the country’s wealth is shared among all its people.
These are people who challenge prejudice, who fight for people living with disabilities and for all those who are marginalised because of nothing other than the circumstances of their birth.
These are people who use their knowledge and their capabilities, their ideas and their energy to forge a South Africa defined by solidarity, community and progress.
The Order of Luthuli is awarded to South Africans who have served the interests of South Africa by making a meaningful contribution in the struggle for democracy, human rights, nation-building, justice, peace and conflict resolution.
They are the peacemakers, who walk into battle armed only with the conviction that there is no dispute too great or complex that it cannot be resolved peacefully through dialogue.
They are the jurists who believe in transformative constitutionalism.
They see the purpose of law to be the pursuit of justice in the interests of the dispossessed, the injured, the wronged and the vulnerable.
They are the women and men who confront oppression and exploitation wherever they manifest.
They are the people who organised pickets and strikes, marches and meetings, vigils and prayers.
They organised underground, they took up arms, they went out to the corners of the globe to argue the case for the struggling masses of South Africa.
For their efforts, they were restricted, banned, detained, banished, tortured, jailed, exiled and murdered.
And yet, they stood firm, knowing that the guns would fall silent, the jail doors would swing open and the sound of freedom would ring across the land.
The achievement of our freedom owes much to the devout support of the international community.
Many countries offered solidarity and opened their arms to our activists.
Many people in our neighbouring countries lost life and limb for our cause.
It is for this reason that among us are the recipients of the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo, which is awarded to eminent foreign nationals for friendship shown to South Africa.
We honour these remarkable human beings who stood alongside our people, at home and in exile, who provided material and other assistance to our students, activists and combatants.
In doing so, we express our sincere and eternal gratitude to them for joining a struggle that was not theirs, in a land far from their own, and for giving so much, for so long, to so many.
I wish to congratulate all those who are to be honoured today.
This is a roll call of heroes and heroines, of people who have been prepared to devote their talent, their energy, their lives to the affirmation and the advancement of others.
By the power vested in me in terms of Section 84 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, I now confer the Order of the Mendi for Bravery, the Order of Ikhamanga, the Order of the Baobab, the Order of Luthuli, and the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo to the distinguished persons indicated.
And they shall henceforth be honoured as esteemed Members of the Orders.
The people of South Africa salute them all.
I thank you.
Issued by The Presidency, 18 November 2021