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National orders 'an inspiration'

2002-12-10 15:48

Pretoria - National orders bestowed on 28 people on Tuesday for various achievements would inspire others to serve their country better, former president Nelson Mandela said after receiving the highest order.

"It is going to be a source of inspiration to many people to redouble their efforts in serving the community. That is the most important aspect - the inspiration it is going to give to the entire country," he said at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

Describing his award as a great honour, Mandela used the opportunity to shower praises on his successor, President Thabo Mbeki.

"In the history of this country there is no prime minister or president who can boast of having done better than Thabo Mbeki - either nationally or internationally.

"He has really put South Africa on the map, and the way this whole ceremony was organised testifies to that," he said.

Mandela received the Order of Mapungubwe in platinum for his "exceptional and unequalled" contribution to the struggle against apartheid, national reconciliation and nation-building, as well as his commitment to peace and justice in the world.

Mandela's predecessor, FW de Klerk, said he was honoured to accept the Order of Mapungubwe (gold) in the spirit of reconciliation and nation-building in which he believed it had been conferred.

"He (de Klerk) does not accept the award as recognition for any role that he as an individual may have played... He accepts it rather on behalf of the millions of South Africans from all our communities who steadfastly supported his efforts to help create the New South Africa," the FW de Klerk Foundation said in a statement.

De Klerk received the order for his contribution to peace, national reconciliation and nation-building.

Former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda, who received the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo in gold, described the honour as "a great occasion for me, for Zambians, for Africa as a whole".

"It shows that we are marching towards the ideals. It is still very far away, but we are going there," he said.

Kaunda was given the award for his contribution to the anti-apartheid struggle and his dedication to peace and justice in the southern African region.

Satish Dhupelia, great-grandson of the late Indian human rights campaigner Mohandas Ghandi, received on his behalf the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo in gold.

"We are very honoured," Dhupelia said afterwards. "We don't just receive it on behalf of the family, we receive it on behalf of all the people of South Africa and India because Ghandi belonged to everybody.

"We are very honoured that his work in South Africa was noticed and appreciated. To have it now officially (recognised) by the government really means a lot."

Mbeki hailed all recipients for helping to make it possible for South Africans to live in a world free of oppression.

"The life contribution of the heroes and heroines who are the principals of today's national award ceremony light our way as we advance to the better world that is being born," Mbeki told guests at a glittering ceremony in Pretoria.

"Their footprints are the signposts that indicate our route of march, even onto generations that have still to emerge out of the mists of future time."

National orders are the highest honours South Africa can bestow on its citizens and foreigners.

The order of Mapungubwe (platinum, gold and bronze) is awarded to South African citizens for excellence and exceptional achievement on the international stage.

The order of the Baobab (gold, silver and bronze) is for South African citizens for distinguished service. Foreigners, like heads of state and other dignitaries, qualify for the Order of the Companion of OR (Oliver) Tambo - the ANC stalwart whose wife, Adelaide, also received an order on Tuesday. This order can be awarded in gold, silver or bronze.

Other recipients of the Order of Mapungubwe in gold were CAT scan co-inventor Allan M Cormack, and physicist Basil Schonland.

Bronze awards were made to geneticist Peter Beighton, and Hamilton Naki - a gardener turned anaesthetist.

The order of the Baobab in the gold class was awarded to chief justice Arthur Chaskalson, his predecessor the late Ismael Mahomed, the late Sanlam chair Marinus Daling, Prof Tamsanqa Kambule, former Umkhonto we Sizwe commander Moses Mabhida, former National African Federated Chamber of Commerce president Sam Motsuenyane, the late nuclear physicist Friedel Sellschop, the late Mark Shope - a former SA Congress of Trade Unions general secretary, and Adelaide Tambo.

In the silver category the award was made to Mvume Dandala - head of the Methodist Church in South Africa, the late Ian Haggie, artist Noria Mabasa, Yvonne Muthien, chair of the President's Advisory Council for National Orders, and former University of Cape Town vice-chancellor Prof Stuart Saunders.

Bronze went to former MP Elizabeth Abrahams, Thelma Henderson for social development, nursing sister Eva Mokoka, the late Adelle Searll for her work against drugs, and Clara Basenjeng Masinga for rural development.

With Ghandi and Kaunda, the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo was also awarded to the late Swedish prime minister Olof Palme.