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Oration by the Grand Patron of the National Orders, President Cyril Ramaphosa, at the presentation of the 2023 National Orders, Sefako Makgatho Guest House, Tshwane

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Programme Director,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula,
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 once more present and bestow South Africa’s highest accolades, the National Orders.
This is the first full ceremony since 2019 that is taking place without COVID-19 restrictions.
This in itself represents the determination of humankind to rise above adversity, to persevere and to strive in pursuit of a better life and a better world.
Today we honour South Africans and foreign nationals who put themselves at the service of their country and its people.
They have emerged from a process that involved the receipt of nominations from across the length and breadth of the country, reflective of the broadly participatory nature of our honours system.
That the National Orders ceremony is taking place this week is tinged with symbolism.
On the 20th of April 2023 I received a state visit from President Hage Geingob of Namibia, the land of the brave. We recalled the mutual struggles for liberation and how we celebrated each others victory and liberation.
On Tuesday the 25th of April I received on a State Visit the President of the Republic of Finland, His Excellency Sauli Niinistö.
It was a welcome opportunity for us to not only reaffirm the importance of the bilateral relationship, but also to thank the noble Finnish people for all they did to support South Africa’s liberation struggle.
A day later, on Wednesday the 26th of April, we received the sad news that Harry Belafonte, a towering figure in the civil rights movement and a great friend of the South African people, had passed away.
In 2008 Mr. Belafonte received the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo in recognition of his role in sustaining a cultural boycott against apartheid South Africa.
As much as we are saddened by Mr. Belafonte’s passing and once more pay tribute to his legacy, as South Africans we are comforted that we were able to extend our appreciation to him in his lifetime.
Yesterday, we celebrated Freedom Day in honour of the historic events of the 27th of April 1994 when our new nation was born.
In different ways and in different contexts the men and women we honour here today all contributed towards the freedom South Africans enjoy today.
They did what they did; said what they said; and acted the way they did not for prestige or fame, nor for recognition or reward, but because it was the right thing to do.
In doing the right thing, their actions had a lasting and enduring impact and live on long after them.
Those who are receiving National Orders embody the founding values of the South African Republic; namely the achievement of equality, the advancement of human rights and freedoms, and perhaps most importantly of all, human dignity.
The Order of Mendi for Bravery is made to South Africans to displayed the greatest courage in trying to help others. All three of this year’s recipients of the Order of Mendi for Bravery lost their lives in the cause of saving others. There can be no greater sacrifice.
The Order of Luthuli is awarded to South Africans who have contributed to the struggle for democracy, human rights, nation-building, justice and peace, as well as for the resolution of conflict.
This year’s recipients include eminent scholars, liberation fighters and activists who risked arrest, banishment, exile and even death to amplify the voice of the oppressed South African people on the world stage in the dark days of apartheid.
The Order of Ikhamanga recognises South Africans who have excelled in the arts, culture, literature, music, journalism and sport.
We are proud to count amongst this year’s recipients ome of our sporting heroes and heroines that I was honoured to welcome here at the Union Buildings. Your victories have inspired a whole nation and a new generation.
I would like to single out for particular mention the awarding of the Order in Gold posthumously to Mr. Solomon Popoli Linda. Even though his music was famous throughout the world, he never received his dues in his lifetime. As the democratic government it is our humble wish that this honour will restore the dignity of Mr. Linda and give comfort to his descendants.
The Order of the Baobab is awarded to South African citizens for distinguished service in the fields of business and the economy, science and medicine.
Recognising these important contributions to the national life of our country inspires the younger generation to follow in your footsteps. Cultivating excellence in these disciplines are the building blocks of a better, more prosperous South Africa that leaves no-one behind.
By equal measure, The Order of Mapungubwe recognises South Africans who have achieved excellence and exceptional achievement for the benefit of South Africa and beyond. This year’s recipients have excelled in the critical fields of physics as well as environmental science.
Finally, The Order of the Companions of OR Tambo recognises eminent foreign nationals for friendship shown to South Africa. We salute this year’s recipients, some of whom are no longer with us, for using their talents to draw attention to the great injustice that was apartheid.
As much as the regime tried to commit atrocities in secret, the friends of the South African people in the media, in the music industry and in the publishing world always made sure their crimes were exposed. They wrote, published and sang about us and our plight.
I congratulate all who are being recognised today.
Your good deeds and exceptional achievement will forever be remembered.
As William Shakespeare once wrote:
“How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.”
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 the Mendi for Bravery, 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.