It is my honour and privilege to welcome you all to our 2013 National Orders Awards event, on this important day on which we celebrate our freedom.
We are marking Freedom Day today under the theme “mobilising society towards consolidating our democracy and freedom”.
Freedom Day represents peace, unity, and the restoration of human dignity of all South Africans.
It is a reminder of the countless sacrifices made by thousands of South Africans and freedom lovers in Africa and abroad, and a chance to ensure that no one will ever take our hard won freedom for granted.
South Africa has taken many strides away from its past of exclusion and discrimination on the basis of sex, colour and creed.
Our country has been steadily moving forward in a direction that reasserts our humanity. In this march towards humanity, a new culture of human rights and a respect for the dignity of the human spirit have become characteristics of South Africa.
One of the symbolic moments of the exodus from the past was the hoisting of the new flag in 1994.
This moment aptly affirmed the pride and dignity of an unfolding country and a celebration of humanity. Another was the unveiling of a new Coat of Arms on 27 April 2000 that embraced the collective historical essence of the people of the country.
The National Orders, the highest awards that this country bestows on outstanding nationals and friends of the Republic abroad, have also become part of the new culture that informs a South African rebirth.
We are therefore truly grateful that you have all joined us today, to celebrate our freedom, and the achievements of our people and outstanding friends of our people and our country from abroad.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The National Orders promote a sense of national pride, nation building and patriotism in our country, by acknowledging and paying homage to our heroes and heroines.
The ceremony elevates the spirit expressed in the preamble of our constitution, that is, “to honour those who suffered for justice and freedom, and to respect those who have worked to build and develop our country.”
We are today honouring individuals who walked the extra mile to improve the lot of humanity and who have contributed to elevating our country to great heights among other nations.
We are promoting the kind of society that can drive our collective zeal as a nation, and make sure that we attain the goals we set ourselves in terms of our 2030 vision espoused in our National Development Plan.
Today we are honouring men and women who made a selfless contribution to the attainment of the freedom we are enjoying today locally.
We are honouring stalwarts who participated in several campaigns inside the country and in exile fighting apartheid colonialism.
The international community also played a pivotal role in driving the struggle against apartheid. It is therefore befitting that we have in our midst today, friends of our people who worked tirelessly, against all odds, to bring forward the dawn of freedom.
Their courage and sacrifice is an inspiration and an unyielding reminder to the nation never to take this hard-won freedom for granted.
We are also honouring achievers in various social fields.
We are in particular proud to have among us, an outstanding educator, Mama Nontsikelelo Qwelane, who at the age of 92, proves to us that education is the primary instrument of freedom.
We honour with pride, our achievers in science, medicine, technology, sports and recreation, the arts and nation building.
Every award is important and contributes to promoting a culture of excellence and selflessness in serving society.
We urge all recipients to continue hoisting the national flag high.
Let us all continue our steadfast walk in the trails of these leading lights so that we consolidate the gains that we have made so far in our democracy.
We have achieved much in various aspects of our lives in the country, and much more will be achieved if we work together as one nation.
Together we must demonstrate that after apartheid, there is no force on earth that will ever successfully divide us and stand in our way as we march towards progress as a people.
This is the best tribute we can pay to Oliver Reginald Tambo, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Lillian Ngoyi, Ruth First, Amina Cachalia and indeed all our leaders who loved this country and its people so much that they sacrificed life’s comforts to free South Africa and enable us to enjoy living in peace and democracy.
Under the powers vested in me by Section 84 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa 1996, I now confer the Order of Mendi for Bravery, the Order of Ikhamanga, the Order of the Baobab, the Order of Luthuli, the Order of Mapungubwe and the Order of the Companions of O R Tambo.
The recipients shall henceforth be honoured as esteemed Members of the Orders.
The people of South Africa salute them all!
I thank you.
Speech issued by The Presidency