Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the 2018 National Orders Awards Ceremony, Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guest House, Pretoria
28 April 2018
President Alpha Oumar Konare of the Republic of Mali,
Former President Samuel Nujoma of the Republic of Namibia
Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Baleka Mbete
Members of Parliament,
The Chairperson of the National Orders Advisory Council, Ms Brigitte Mabandla and all Council members,
Members of the diplomatic corps,
Distinguished Recipients of the National Orders, members of their families and friends,
Fellow South Africans,
I am honoured to preside over this National Orders ceremony to honour those among us who have made outstanding contributions to our country and to the broader global community.
Yesterday we celebrated our freedom, a freedom that was attained through the work of many of the people who we are honouring today.
These national orders are a recognition of the many outstanding individuals who defied great odds to make an immense contribution in various spheres of life.
Our freedom opened windows of opportunity for many to chase their dreams, to excel, to succeed, and in so doing to inspire others to reach beyond what they imagined possible.
We dedicate this year’s ceremony to the memory of former President Nelson Mandela, who, more than any other, embodied the spirit and the intent of these orders.
The outstanding individuals that we honour here today are, in different ways, champions of freedom, peace, human rights, social justice and equality.
In whatever area they have applied themselves, each of today’s recipients have honoured and upheld the values to which Nelson Mandela dedicated his life.
The national awards we confer today include 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 voices lifted our spirits during the darkest hours of apartheid and nourished our souls during the brilliant days of democracy.
We honour artists and performers who used their tremendous talent not only to entertain, provoke and inspire, but to strive for a better, more just society.
We honour people 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.
We pay tribute to those who have faced adversity, who have conquered doubt, who have used the exceptional gifts that they have been given not for their own glory, but to celebrate the splendour of human endeavour.
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 have sadly left us – are pioneers who laid the path along which others would follow.
Without exception, they were affronted by the ills that bedevilled our society and which, in various ways, continue to hold back the realisation of the potential of our people.
They include those who confronted the great injustices of our broken past and the inequalities of our present, and began to build a new society where none is exploited, none is humiliated and in which the country’s riches are shared among all its people.
These are people who challenge prejudice, who fight for people living with disabilities or who are otherwise marginalised by the circumstances of their birth.
They give a voice to those who would otherwise go unheard.
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 any of the following areas: 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, no disagreement that cannot be settled through dialogue.
They are the jurists, who see that the law must serve no greater purpose than the pursuit of justice and that the courts of this land should, in the first instance, be the champion of the dispossessed, the wronged and the vulnerable.
They are the women and men, drawn from every class and every hue of our diverse nation, who confronted oppression and exploitation wherever it was manifest.
They are the stalwarts who stood up to the outrages of a regime founded on a racist lie and a patriarchal myth.
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.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Our freedom owes a great deal 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 therefore a special honour today to confer the Order of the Companions of Oliver Tambo in Gold to four former Heads of State, Excellencies Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, Sam Nujoma of Namibia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and the late Sir Ketumile Masire of Botswana.
We also honour those 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 their’s, in a land far from their own, and for giving so much, for so long, to so many.
Allow me to mention in particular Ambassador Alexander Sergeevich Dsasokhov and Dr Slava Tetekin of Russia and Ms Rosita Johnson of the United States, whom we honour today.
We 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.
Therefore, 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 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.
I thank you.
Issued by The Presidency, 27 April 2018