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Oration by the Grand Patron of National Orders President Cyril Ramaphosa at the presentation of the 2024 National Orders, Sefako Makgatho Guest House, Tshwane

Deputy President Paul Mashatile,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Members of Parliament,
Chancellor of National Orders, Ms Phindile Baleni,
Members of the Advisory Council on National Orders,
Members of the diplomatic corps,
Recipients of the National Orders together with their family members and friends,
Fellow South Africans, 

It is my honour and privilege to present the recipients of this year’s National Orders. 

National Orders are the highest accolade bestowed by a country on the men and women, citizens and non-citizens, who have played an invaluable role in building our nation. 

Two days ago, on the 27th of April, we celebrated Freedom Day and the victory of the democratic breakthrough that enabled South Africans of all races to cast their votes for the first time. 

This year marks 30 years since we attained our freedom. 

This would not have been possible without the bravery, fortitude and noble acts of those the preamble of our Constitution recognises as having suffered for justice and freedom in our land. 

The men and women we honour here today have played an invaluable role in giving birth to the free South Africa that we all enjoy today. 

Our nation owes each of them a great debt. 

By bestowing these National Orders, we want to ensure that their contributions are recognised and spoken of by generations to come. 

The recipients of the National Orders are chosen by the South African people themselves. It is the South African people who makes nominations for consideration. 

This is most appropriate because the recipients are the heroes and heroines of the entire nation. 

The truest test of heroism is that these acts are not done for the sake of name, prestige, fortune or fame. 

They are done out of conscience and an unwavering sense of responsibility. 

They are born of a burning quest for social justice. 

They are anchored in the belief that the achievement of equality and human dignity for all is the highest aspiration of humankind. 

The Order of Mendi for Bravery is made to South Africans who have performed acts of great bravery.

All this year’s recipients were anti-apartheid activists and they are being awarded posthumously. 

They lived at a time when apartheid repression was at its zenith, and they displayed the outmost courage. Their sacrifices will never be forgotten and their memories live on. 

The Order of Luthuli is awarded to South Africans who have contributed to the struggle for democracy, human rights, nation-building, justice and peace. 

Several of the recipients of this year’s Order of Luthuli were brutally killed by the apartheid regime. 

One of them is Ms Nokuthula Simelane, who was abducted and tortured by the apartheid Security Branch. Her remains were never found. 

This is a wound that will never heal for her family, like the scars of many other South Africans whose loved ones disappeared during the repressive years of apartheid. 

By honouring those fallen heroes with National Orders we are saying that no matter how great the passage of time, they have not been forgotten. 

The Order of Ikhamanga recognises South Africans who have excelled in the arts, culture, literature, music, journalism and sport. 

In this, the 30th year since we achieved our freedom, we also celebrate the democratic gains we have made in enshrining the principle of a free and independent media. 

Among those being honoured today are legendary journalists who were the voice, words and conscience of an oppressed people during the darkest periods in our history. The standard they set for media ethics and freedom are embodied in today’s generation of journalists and media workers. 

The Order of the Baobab recognises South Africans who have made a difference in business and the economy, in science, medicine and technological innovation, and in our communities. 

As we strive to bring about social and economic transformation in South Africa, we are keenly aware of the importance of every endeavour, be it in business, in science or in innovation, being put in the service of social justice for all. 

The recipients of The Order of Mapungubwe displayed excellence in scientific endeavours for the benefit of South Africa and beyond. This year’s recipient undertook valuable research in the aerospace field and set a standard that today’s generation of researchers will strive to emulate for time to come. 

Lastly, The Order of the Companions of OR Tambo recognises the great friends of the South African people from beyond our shores, whose sense of moral duty to oppose apartheid saw them undertake acts of solidarity and cooperation in the cause of the liberation struggle. 

We honour journalists who helped amplify the voice of the liberation movement abroad, campaigners and fundraisers for the anti-apartheid movement, and activists who played an important role in the sports boycott against the regime. 

Congratulations to all who are being honoured today and to their families. 

Under the powers vested in me by the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (1996), I now confer the Order of Mendi, the Order of Ikhamanga, the Order of the Baobab, the Order of Luthuli and the Order of the Companions of O R Tambo. 

The recipients shall henceforth be honoured as esteemed Members of the Orders. 

The people of South Africa salute them all.

I thank you.

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