National order recipients are champions of freedom and peace: Cyril Ramaphosa

18 November 2021 - 15:48
Rebecca Malope celebrated her award with a raised clenched fist and danced back to her seat. She said the recognition was a dream come true. File photo.
Rebecca Malope celebrated her award with a raised clenched fist and danced back to her seat. She said the recognition was a dream come true. File photo.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

South African gospel singer Dr Rebecca Malope held her hands over her mouth in disbelief as President Cyril Ramapohosa conferred on her the Order of Ikhamanga on Thursday.

“Finally, SA is celebrating and giving me this high award of Ikhamanga — the biggest award ever. I am so grateful,” said Malope.

The gospel powerhouse was among the recipients of national orders from Ramaphosa, who is the grand patron of the national orders, at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guest House in Pretoria.

The accolades, which are the highest awards bestowed in SA, are given to citizens and foreign nationals who have contributed towards the advancement of democracy and have significantly improved the lives of South Africans. They pay homage to people who contributed towards building a nonracial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous country.

During the ceremony Ramaphosa bestowed the Order of Ikhamanga, the Order of the Baobab, the Order of Luthuli and the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo on deserving recipients.

“Two years have passed since we last held the presentation of the national orders, due to Covid-19. This pandemic has cost many lives and has threatened, in some cases devastated, many livelihoods and disrupted almost every part of our lives,” he said.

While the pandemic was still very much with us, Ramaphosa said, it was important to recognise the important duty to honour those who have made outstanding contributions towards the betterment of the country and human condition.

“There are many outstanding individuals, who in many ways defied the odds and made immense sacrifices, not only for us to obtain our freedom but such that this freedom becomes meaningful.”

He described the recipients as “the champions of freedom, peace, human rights, social justice as well as equality”.

“Regardless of the spheres of life in which they applied themselves, the recipients have honoured and upheld the values, which when put together, represent the highest ideals of humanity.”

This is a roll call of heroes and heroines, of people who have been prepared to devote their talent, energy, their lives, to the affirmation and advancement of others.
President Cyril Ramapohosa

About 700 recipients from all walks of life have been awarded orders since the awards started. “This is a roll call of heroes and heroines, of people who have been prepared to devote their talent, energy, their lives, to the affirmation and advancement of others.”

An excited Malope celebrated her award with a raised clenched fist and danced back to her seat. She said the recognition was a dream come true.

“It’s amazing, I think this is the award that I have been waiting for. I have received so many awards all over and Africa has been celebrating me like crazy. I feel loved right now.”

The Order of Ikhamanga is given to citizens who have excelled in the arts, culture and literature. Malope said: “This is all that I wanted for SA, to say, 'Yes, we acknowledge you, we know your work and what you have done.' This is all I wanted.”

She thanked South Africans for supporting her music career. “I love them, they raised me. I was very young when I started in the industry. I came to Johannesburg at the age of 14 and today I am 52. My life has been on stage all of this time and now I get to spend time with my children and grandchildren.”

Sibongiseni Shabalala and his elder brother, Nkosinathi, received the award on behalf of their late father Dr Joseph Shabalala, who founded the Grammy-winning isicathamiya group Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

“We are extremely happy as the Shabalala family for what the president and the country as a whole has done. My father was only able to walk his journey because of the support he received from all South Africans.”

Shabalala said the award showed that his father left a lasting legacy. “We can see that South Africans appreciate what he has done for the country.”

Nkosinathi Shabalala said he intends showing the award to immediate family members. “We also want to show people living in Ladysmith, I think they will be happy to hear about the award because they loved my father a lot.”

Struggle activist Audrey Coleman, who received the Order of Luthuli in Silver along with her husband Max, said she was honoured to be recognised.

“I am sorry that my husband is not with us because he is old. He also got the award. It’s a wonderful thing and a wonderful achievement to have recognition for the work we did 30 years ago with detainees.”

One of the recipients of the Order of Companions of OR Tambo in Silver was Anthony Dykes from the UK. The award is given to people who actively worked for the interests of SA during apartheid.

“The sadness is how little-known Tambo is in the UK. There is a statue of Tambo in London and a park where he and his family occasionally managed to get some recreation and it is now named after him,” he said.

Dykes said he viewed Tambo as the inspiration behind SA’s constitution. “His values will resonate through the years and to receive an award after him, for me, is the greatest honour of my life. If I was to receive one award, this is the award to receive.

“We still need to reflect. As humanity we are capable of wonderful, great things, love and generosity — but sometimes we are taught bad things and I think apartheid was about as nasty as you can get.

“I did not think that in 1994 that was it and the battle was over. I thought, this is a great victory but also [there will be] a hard slog ahead to build SA.”

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