South Africa honours freedom heroes with national orders


Twenty-six men and women were the latest recipients of South Africa’s highest honours for outstanding service to their communities, for the part they played in South Africa’s fight for freedom, for their roles in the struggle against oppression worldwide, and for exceptional achievement.

National orders
19 South Africans and six foreign nationals were bestowed with National Orders on 26 April 2005. (Image: Brand South Africa)

Brand South Africa reporter

President Thabo Mbeki bestowed the Order of the Baobab, Order of Luthuli, Order of the Companions of OR Tambo, and Order of Mapungubwe on 19 South Africans and six foreign nationals at a ceremony at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Tuesday.

The recipients included one of Africa’s oldest universities, as well as activists, community workers, freedom fighters, trade unionists, former heads of state and “ordinary” people who made various extraordinary contributions to South Africa’s destiny.

“These distinguished members of our national orders are the guardians of ubuntu, handmaidens of our liberty and defender of a shared human destiny”, Mbeki said.

“Because of their and others’ efforts, we are able to live and develop in a world of freedom, without the fetters of oppression or exclusion.

“They stand as beacons that must guide us forever as we build a society founded on the high ideals of freedom, justice, equality and human solidarity.”

Order of the Baobab

Mbeki presented five South Africans – and the University of Fort Hare – with the Order of the Baobab for exceptional service to their fellow countrymen.

University of Fort Hare – Established in 1915, the Eastern Cape university became a training ground for black intellectuals throughout South Africa and many parts of the continent. A number of SA’s most influential black leaders – including Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Govan Mbeki, Chris Hani, Robert Sobukwe and Mangosuthu Buthelezi – were educated at Fort Hare. The university – with around 6 000 students at present – houses the archives of SA’s liberation movements, one of the largest collections of contemporary South African black art, and an ethnological research museum exhibiting more than 7 000 items of attire made and worn by southern African black tribes.

Job Richard Rathebe (1897-1982) – Founder of the first social support organisation for war orphans, widows and dependants of soldiers who fought in World War II.

Ethel Barlow – Chairwoman of the Kliptown Land Claims Committee.

Revel Albert Ellis Fox – One of South Africa’s foremost architects, Revel Fox died in December 2004, a year after the completion of his magnum opus, the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

Urbania Bebe Mothopeng – Veteran schoolteacher and widow of Pan Africanist Congress stalwart Zeph Mothopeng, honoured for rehabilitating young female offenders.

Marjorie Manganye – A community worker and head of the Itlhokomeleng old age home, “Mama Marj” has been caring for poor, elderly and neglected people in Alexandra for more than four decades.

Order of Luthuli

Mbeki presented 14 South Africans with the Order of Luthuli for outstanding contributions to democracy, nation-building, human rights, justice and peace.

Flag Marutle Boshielo – The body of the former anti-apartheid activist and Umkhonto weSizwe member, who went missing in the 1970s, has yet to be found. It is believed that he was captured with two of his comrades near Caprivi by the then Rhodesian security forces.

John Langalibalele Dube (1871-1946) – Founding leader of the African National Congress (ANC).

Anton Muziwakhe Lembede (1914-1947) – A political activist and lawyer, Lembede was instrumental in the formation of the ANC Youth League in 1944. He was at the forefront of the Youth League’s campaign to destroy the Natives Representative Council and boycott elections under the Native Representatives Act of 1936, and was regarded as the architect of the 1949 Programme of Action.

Isaac Bangani Tabata (1909-1990) – Political activist and author. Helped found the Workers’ Party of South Africa in the 1930s, and the Non-European Unity Movement in the 1940s. Banned in 1956. In 1961 he established and became president of the African People’s Democratic Union of Southern Africa.

Edward Joseph Daniels – Political activist who was imprisoned on Robben Island from 1964-1979. After his release in 1979, he was banned and placed under house arrest for another five years.

Frene Noshir Ginwala – South Africa’s Speaker of Parliament from 1994 to 2004.

Ntwaesele Thatayone “Fish” Keitseng (1919-2005) – African National Congress (ANC) stalwart and founding executive member of the Botswana People’s Party and the Botswana Independence Party. A Rivonia Treason Trialist, Keitseng is remembered in particular for establishing and co-ordinating the underground ANC “pipeline” through Botswana during the 1960s, an operation that involved the movement of thousands of people, including Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.

Mildred Ramakaba-Lesiea – Honoured for her contribution to the struggle for gender and racial equality in South Africa.

Kwedie Mzingisi Zilindile Mkalipi – Political activist and Pan Africanist Congress member, and one of the first-string accused in the Treason Trial of 1956-61. Mkalipi was arrested for passive resistance during the 1952 Defiance Campaign and later for addressing various illegal meetings, and was already in prison at the time of the December 1956 treason arrests.

Abdullah Mohamed Omar (1934-2004) – South Africa’s minister of justice from 1994 to 1999, and minister of transport from 1999 until shortly before his death. As a human rights lawyer, Omar represented many Robben Island prisoners, trade unions and non-governmental organisations in the 1960s and ’70s. Elected to the ANC’s national executive committee in 1991, he was a member of the ANC negotiating team that forged South Africa’s constitutional and political settlement.

Madimetja Laurence Phokanoka – Former Robben Island prisoner and Umkhonto weSizwe operative.

Archibald Mcedisi Sibeko (Zola Zembe) – Former trade unionist, political activist and Umkhonto weSizwe operative.

Christmas Fihla Tinto – Former political activist, ANC member and United Democratic Front leader, twice imprisoned for his opposition to apartheid.

Dorothy Nomazotsho Zihlangu (1920-1991) – Veteran of the 1952-53 Defiance Campaign, former chair of the United Women’s Organisation, arrested a number of times for her opposition to apartheid.

Order of the Companions of OR Tambo

The recipients of South Africa’s highest civilian award for foreign nationals went to six people who, through their roles in the struggle against oppression worldwide, directly advanced or served as inspiration for the fight against apartheid.

Cheddi Jagan – Prime minister of British Guiana from 1961 to 1964, and president of independent Guyana from 1992 until his death in 1997.

Jawaharlal Nehru – Prime minister of India from the country’s independence in 1947 until his death in 1964. Founding leader of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Ahmed Sukarno – President of Indonesia from the country’s independence in 1945 until 1968, two years before his death. Instrumental in the founding of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Diallo Telli Boubacar – Guinean diplomat and political figure. Helped found the Organisation of African Unity in 1963, and was the organisation’s first secretary-general from 1964 to 1972.

Motsamai Keyecwe Mpho – Social worker and activist on South Africa’s mines during apartheid.

Vladimir Gennadyevich Shubin – Deputy director of the Institute for Africans Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. The former Soviet official was involved for many years in helping the African National Congress and its ally, the South African Communist Party, in their war against apartheid.

Order of Mapungubwe

The Order of Mapungubwe is awarded to South African citizens for exceptional achievement.

Sydney Brenner – The South African born and educated molecular biologist, along with two of his colleagues, was awarded the 2002 Nobel Prize for Medicine for their research into the genetic development of organs and the “programmed death” or “suicide” of cells.

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