National Orders are the highest awards that a country, through its President, bestows on its citizens and eminent foreign nationals.
National Orders 2021
Recognising outstanding individuals
President Ramaphosa said that recipients of the National Orders have honoured and upheld the values which combined represent the highest ideals of humanity.
“Through these national orders, we recognise many outstanding individuals who defied great odds and made immense sacrifices not only for us to attain freedom, but so that such freedom is meaningful,” he said.
President Ramaphosa congratulated all the recipients who were honoured and referred to them as a roll call of heroes and heroines.
In a room filled with jubilation and a spirit of humility, the recipients of the National Orders were bestowed with 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 by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Kneeling down while receiving her Order of Baobab in Bronze, Dr Hlamalani Judith Ngwenya said that she was filled with humility more than anything.
Ngwenya received the award for her contribution to capacity-building, sustainable agriculture and the empowerment of communities.
Speaking to SAnews, Dr Ngwenya said that when she received an email about the event, she had thought it was a prank and didn’t believe it.
She said the past two weeks have been filled with emotion and admitted that she still did not understand the enormity of the occasion until the President was speaking at the podium.
“I have realised that I am one of the chosen few and that for me I don’t take for granted. The award I am given, the order of the Baobab, is a huge symbol because the Baobab is a huge tree but it stands still because it is kept strong by the roots that are invisible.
“For me that is a very strong symbol of my life because I am where I am today not because of my intelligence but through God and his Grace but also there are a lot of people who actually stood by me, who believe in me and have prayed for me and supported me. They were not on stage with me and they are not visible on the Baobab but they are actually holding me down like the roots so I dedicate this order to these people,” she said.
Kneeling to receive National Order
Explaining her sign of kneeling down when receiving the order, Dr Ngwenya said that it was because she was humbled more than anything and she had to honour the teachings of her parents.
“My father was a priest and all my life I was taught to be humble. No matter how ‘big’ you get, you remain humble. That is the value I have learnt from my parents. When I was ascending that stage I felt my parent’s presence and I thought I have to demonstrate the value that they have taught me and I could only represent them by going down on my knees,” Dr Ngwenya said.
Dr Ngwenya works in the agricultural sector and over the past 20 years she has worked in over 50 international countries. She has been a resource person for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation and African Union and many other international organisations.
South African music legend, Dr Rebecca Malope, was also one of the recipients. She receives the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver for her distinguished contribution to South African music, with her unique voice bringing joy and comfort to many through meaningful gospel music.
‘Close to my heart’
Speaking to SAnews, Dr Malope said it felt so good to be honoured and receive an award at home.
“I am humbled by this award. Finally, South Africa has said: ‘We have seen your work’. I am being celebrated at home it really means a lot. This is the biggest award – better than the rest I received in other countries because this is from my home, it is very close to my heart, it is dream I don’t want to wake up from,” Dr Malope said.
Anthony Dykes from the United Kingdom was bestowed the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo for his lifelong commitment to the development of South and Southern Africa.
Speaking to SAnews, the 70-year-old said that he was really honoured to get an award named after OR Tambo and he had to come all the way to South Africa because this is an award one would want to receive in person.
“I see Tambo as the inspiration behind South Africa’s constitution and his values will resonate through the years and to receive an award named after him for me it’s the greatest honours of my life,” he said.
Dykes said that whatever they did internationally for the struggle against apartheid, to build a democratic South Africa is nothing compared to what the people of South Africa went through.