National Orders to be awarded tonight

2010-04-27 00:00

“THE lion of Pietermaritzburg”, Harry Themba Gwala, is among 38 South Africans and foreign nationals who will be honoured with National Orders by President Jacob Zuma at a function taking place at the Union Buildings this evening.

According to a statement issued by Vusi Masvimbela, Director-General in the Presidency and the Chancellor of the National Orders, the late ANC KwaZulu-Natal midlands leader will be psohumously awarded a gold medal of Order of Mendi for Bravery for displaying enormous courage during the struggle against apartheid.

Gwala died in 1995, just a year after South Africa attained democracy, an achievement towards which he made an immense contribution.

At the time of his death he was suffering from a motor neuron disease which had robbed him of the use of his arms. The disease affected him while he was serving a life sentence on Robben Island in the 1980s and subsequently led to his release in 1988.

After the unbanning of the ANC and other liberation movements, he was elected chairperson of the ANC in the then Natal midlands.

His only surviving children, Linda and Lindiwe, are going to accept the awards on his behalf. His wife Elda died while he was still in prison, and his other two children, Lulu and Mfana, died before he did.

Gwala’s last-born, Lindiwe, said the family was excited that at last their father’s dedication to the liberation of black people was being recognised.

“We hope that Pietermaritzburg people will join us in celebrating the achievement of this great son of the soil. Baba was not struggling for his family but for the entire South African society. We were wondering and thinking that he was being overlooked,” Lindiwe said.

Gwala was known for his radical views and for being a hardcore communist who taught many ANC cadres Marxist-Leninist principles on Robben Island.

Other people to be awasrded the same order are Phila Portia “Zandi” Ndwandwe, an uMmlazi-born Umkhonto Wesizwe commander who died in mysterious circumstances in the 1980s, Kgosi Galeshewe and Makhosi “Tholi” Nyoka.

Another KwaZulu-Natal figure to receive the order is Imtiaz Sooliman of the Gift of the Givers Foundation. He will receive the Order of Baobab for his contributions in giving humanitarian aid in South Africa and organising relief missions in various countries.


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