Shakila Singh and the young lifesaver Cameron White who rescued her from her submerged car on the M4. Picture: Nabeelah Shaikh

We salute our soldiers and police when they defend or protect us. We acknowledge their risk and selflessness, as we should – their bravery with decorations, and their service with medals.

Hailing those who place themselves in danger and serve aquatic safety is equally appropriate. Lifesaving South Africa has been doing it since 1948, and awards to 37 recipients at a function in Durban on Saturday were uplifting.

Antiheroes, criminals and the like, often tend through their deeds to force themselves centre stage in South Africa. Our society, with all its stresses and flaws, needs heroes. They should be spotlighted and thanked.

That beam fell on Cameron White, 17, in the Daily News on Friday. His prominence among the 37 was due to the freshness of his act. He extracted a trapped motorist and her belongings from her car in flood waters in La Lucia last week.

Gratitude is also due the 20 other brave acts of the previous year in various parts of South Africa; and those behind 16 drowning preventions, also involving considerable personal risk.

There was also a recognition award: a lifesaver who used his skills to save people hurt in a serious road collision on a highway in Pretoria. He, too, should take a bow.

Certificates of commendation and this special mention are modest recognition of three who paid with their lives for their acts of courage: Phenyo Nkopo, 15, who tried to save a girl caught in a rip current off Wydenham Beach near Umkomaas; Ruan de Villiers, 27, who fell victim to turbulent currents and big waves at Kogel Bay, as he tried to rescue a swimmer in distress; and Siyanda Buthelezi, 15, at Umkomaas.

Buthelezi was part of a visiting school group on March 5. He rescued a friend who had been swept out, and returned to the sea to save two more in rough surf. None made it.

We add our thanks to that of Lifesaving South Africa. If only we had more decent people doing the right thing.