President Jacob Zuma today awarded South Africans who have in various ways contributed in the struggle against the apartheid regime and the betterment of the country.
Speaking at a ceremony held at the Sefako Mapogo Makgatho Presidential Guesthouse, in Pretoria, President Zuma said it was a distinct privilege to celebrate 20 years of freedom with the awarding of National Orders to special South Africans.
The awards recognise the contributions made by individuals towards building a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa in various ways.
The nominees were awarded in various categories which included the Order of Mendi, the Order of Ikhamanga, the Order of Baobab, the Order of Luthuli, the Order of Maphungubwe and the Order of the Companion of OR Tambo.
President Zuma thanked all the nominees for their contribution in the struggle against the apartheid regime.
“We thank all our international guests for your contribution to the achievement of freedom and democracy in our country. We thank all the South Africans for making their country a much better place to live in.
“The National Orders Ceremony has a distinct importance in our country. We honour men and women who have left definitive footprints in both the struggle for liberation and also in building a better South Africa,” President Zuma said.
Among the recipients was well known businessman Raymond Ackerman, who was awarded the Order of the Boabab, which recognises those who contributed to community service, business and economy, science, medicine and technological innovation, for providing scholarships to young people and conducting socially responsible retail business.
Also a recipient, Caster Semenya, 23, a middle-distance runner and an Olympic silver medallist, received the Order of Ikhamanga in bronze, which recognised for her achievements while faced with trying times from local and world athletics bodies.
Semenya told SAnews that she feels encouraged by the award especially from the President, saying that she will continue to raise the country’s flag high.
“I am really honoured with the award, I will continue to represent South Africa,” she said with a smile. The award is given to South Africans who excel in the field of arts, culture, literature, music, journalism and sport.
The President also awarded another sports personality, Ephraim Matsilele Jomo Sono, with the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver, for his commitment and dedication as a footballer and his excellent contribution to the development of football and young talent.
The excited Sono told SAnews that he was encouraged by the award.
“This really shows that I am being recognised for my efforts in improving sports in the country,” he said. Recipients of the Order of Luthuli in Silver included former Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya, former North West Premier Popo Molefe and the former Mayor of the City of Tshwane, Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa.
Early in the day, thousands of people, young and old, black and white braved the scorching heat in the lawn area at the Union Buildings, in Pretoria, for the annual commemoration of Freedom Day.
The celebration this year is being held under the theme, “South Africa – A Better Place to live in”.
This year’s Freedom Day marks 20 years of Freedom and Democracy celebrations. On this day in 1994, South Africans of all races had cast their votes in the first ever democratic election, giving birth to the country’s freedom and constitutional democracy.
Source : SAnews.gov.za