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Simon John Mthombeni (1953 - )

The Order of Mendi for Bravery in

Simon John Mthombeni (1953 - ) Awarded for:
Outstanding courage displayed while saving lives.

Profile of Simon John Mthombeni

On 21 June 1991, Simon John Mthombeni, also known as “Simon Mahlangu’, a 38-year-old worker on a farm near Pretoria, was engaged in his daily duties when a light aircraft appeared overhead, flying very low and erratically. Mthombeni and his fellow workers watched helplessly as the aircraft flew into some electrical power-lines, before hitting a tree and crashing to the ground and bursting into flames.

By now all the onlookers except Mthombeni had fled the scene of the crash. Mthombeni realised that the occupants’ required immediate help if they were to escape the flames that were already beginning to engulf the wrecked aircraft.

Without regard for his own safety, Mthombeni ran up to the burning aircraft, pulling one of the occupants from the wreck and dragging him back to what he judged to be a safe distance. Then he went back and rescued a second and a third occupant in the same fashion.

He was on his way to rescue the last occupant when the aircraft exploded with such force that, as he later remarked, “it felt as if the world had been turned upside-down’. Not surprisingly, Mthombeni suffered from delayed traumatic shock.

One of the men Mthombeni rescued later died of his injuries, but the others recovered. Simon Mthombeni's selfless act of courage in rescuing total strangers, with full knowledge of the extreme danger to which he was exposed, redounds to the credit of himself, his family and all the people of South Africa.

All who share in our new democracy can be proud of this instinctively brave South African who hailed from deprived circumstances in Ogies and Wasbank, in what was then known as the Eastern Transvaal; and, indeed, who showed such exemplary fellow-feeling for others.