ANC stalwarts Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, internationally renowned Aids Professor Helen Rees, media pioneer Zwelakhe Sisulu, Afrikaans singer Laurika Rauch and Chilean president Michelle Bachelet Jeria were among the dignitaries who received a national orders award from President Jacob Zuma yesterday.
Zuma honoured 32 people considered to have made a significant contribution to advancing South Africa’s democracy. The national orders are the highest honour that the country bestows on citizens and foreign nationals.
“The ceremony takes place just after Freedom Day, on which South Africans closed the chapter on institutionalised racism and repression and began a journey towards a united, nonracial, nonsexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa,” the president said, before conferring the awards. Zuma added: “We reiterate that South Africa is a much better place to live in now than it was before 1994.
“We thank all South Africans, as well as our friends from all over Africa and the world, for their contribution to making our country the success that it has been since 1994.”
Among those who received the Order of Mendi for Bravery award were Dr Sizakele Sigxashe (posthumous), an anti-apartheid activist who later become the first director-general of the National Intelligence Agency, Major-General Jackie Sedibe and former Armscor director Peter Lesego Tshikare, aka Peter Boroko.
The presidents’ former spokesperson, Mac Maharaj, as well as Madikizela-Mandela received the Order of Luthuli for their contribution towards the struggle for democracy, human rights and nation building. Madikizela-Mandela was not present and the award was accepted on her behalf by her granddaughter, Zoleka.
“She is currently unwell and we wish her a speedy recovery. Ms Mandela endured periods of prison detention and banning orders by the apartheid government from 1958 and through subsequent years. She was not deterred. She became a formidable force facing the enemy head-on‚ in the pursuit of freedom. Our people salute her,” said Zuma.