Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa reacts after receiving his gold medal for the 400m in Rio. Photo: Reuters/Sergio Moraes
Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa reacts after receiving his gold medal for the 400m in Rio. Photo: Reuters/Sergio Moraes

National Orders: Wayde van Niekerk bags gold

By Jonisayi Maromo Time of article published Apr 28, 2017

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Pretoria – Numerous delegates were streaming into the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria on Friday morning ahead of a prestigious event where President Jacob Zuma was set to bestows National Orders in his capacity as the Grand Patron of the National Orders.

The National Orders are awarded to distinguished South African citizens and eminent foreign nationals who have played a significant role towards building a free democratic South Africa and improving the lives of South Africans in various ways.

The long list of recipients includes sporting sensation Wayde van Niekerk, who was set to receive the Order of Ikhamanga in Gold.

“The National Orders are the highest awards that South Africa bestows, through the President of the Republic upon citizens and members of the international community who have contributed meaningfully towards making the country a free democratic and successful nation, united in its diversity,” according to a statement released by the Presidency on Friday.

During the ceremony, President Zuma will bestow the Order of Ikhamanga, the Order of the Baobab, the Order of Luthuli, and the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo to the following list of “deserving recipients”.

(Following awards and biographical information is supplied by the Presidency)


Wayde van Niekerk: For his exceptional contribution to the sporting field of track running. His performance against all odds broke standing records of international legends and brought immense national pride.

Van Niekerk was born on 15 July 1992 in Cape Town. He attended Bellville Primary and Grey College before studying marketing at the University of the Free State. Van Niekerk is a track and field sprinter who has brought national pride to this country. He competes in the 200 and 400 metres respectively. He is the current world record holder, world and Olympic champion in the 400m. He is also the first and only person in history to run 100m in less than 10 seconds, 200m in 20 seconds, and 400m in 44 seconds.

He made his international debut at the 2010 World Junior Championships in Athletics, where he attained fourth position in the 200m, with a personal best time of 21.02 seconds. He also ran in the 4×100m relay heats with the national team, alongside Gideon Trotter. His breakthrough to senior level came at the age of 18 at the 2011 South African Athletics Championships, where he won the 200m title in a new personal record of 20.57 seconds. He competed at the 2011 African Junior Athletics Championships, but did not make the final. He ran sparingly in 2012, but began to show a talent for the 400m, setting a best of 46.43 seconds Van Niekerk was a silver medalist in the 400 m at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and took bronze in the 4×400 m relay at the 2013 Summer Universiade. He also represented South Africa at the 2013 and 2015 Athletics World Championships respectively. At the 2015 World Championships, he won the gold medal in the 400 m. In the 2016 Olympic Games Men’s 400 m, at the age of 24 years he won the gold medal with a world record time of 43.03 seconds, beating the 43.18 seconds record set by Michael Johnson during the 1999 World Championships in Athletics in Seville, Spain.


Matthew Brittain: For his excellent contribution to the field of water sport and winning gold for South Africa in the 2012 Olympic Games. His strong determination is an inspiration to the young people of South Africa.

Mr Matthew Brittain is a South African rower. He won a gold medal in the men’s lightweight coxless four event at the 2012 Summer Olympics. On 2 August 2012, Brittain and his teammates Sizwe Ndlovu, James Thompson and John Smith shocked the world by winning gold for South Africa at the 2012 London Olympics. It was a historic moment for the South African men’s lightweight rowing team and for the sport – one that Brittain will certainly never forget Brittain grew up in Johannesburg exposed to sports from a very young age. His father, Daniel Brittain was a serious rower. Inspired from an early age watching Josiah Thugwane’s amazing feat of winning a gold medal for South Africa in Atlanta in 1996, Brittain wanted to be part of the Olympics. He fell in love with rowing after trying different sports, taking one step at a time.

However, Brittain’s career has been adversely affected by recurring back injuries. In 2010 he had a back surgery, but recovered remarkably to go on and win in the 2012 Olympics in London. However, his back problem recurred in 2013, forcing him to eventually take decision to retire. Sports, however, remains closest to Brittain’s heart and he is now fulfilling this passion through his events company focussing on sponsorship for the rowing team and raising the profile of the sport in the country.


Khaba Mkhize (Posthumous): For his excellent contribution to the field of journalism and the liberation struggle. Through his writings as a journalist, he bravely exposed many apartheid injustices and pricked the consciences of the unjust lawmakers of the time.

Mkhize was a renowned and respected veteran journalist, who studied journalism at the Thomson Foundation in the United Kingdom.

He ran a community newspaper in the heart of the war-torn KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, in the 1980s, arguably one of the most dangerous jobs in the world at the time. He was the editor of the Pietermaritzburg-based Echo newspaper from 1985 to 1991, when the civil war between Inkatha Yenkululeko Yesizwe/Inkatha Freedom Party and the United Democratic Front/African National Congress was at its height. He later served as an assistant editor of the Natal Witness newspaper in Pietermaritzburg. He also served as regional manager of the SABC in KwaZulu-Natal. 

Mkhize was a committed member of the Union of Black Journalists (UBJ) and one of its vice-presidents after it was launched in Soweto shortly after the 1976 student uprisings. After the banning of the UBJ he became a strong and dedicated member and official of the Writers’ Association of South Africa and later an official of the Media Workers’ Association of South Africa. 

Mkhize played a pivotal role in the coverage of violence, as well as in the promotion of peace in Pietermaritzburg and the Midlands during the state of emergency and repression against the media. He was well respected for his promotion of freedom of information and expression, and for his use of the media as an instrument of promoting human rights and democracy.

Mkhize was also President of the Association of Democratic Journalists, which actively supported peace initiatives in KwaZulu-Natal. His Echo newspaper groomed, trained and produced journalists as well as young poets. His selfless mentoring raised a generation of great thinkers and courageous journalists. He believed that to be a good journalist the story of the killings in townships had to be told and the late night media junkets he held enabled him to get the stories very few would obtain.

He also used art and drama to promote peace and to build a better society. He established a threatre group called Die Bafanas, and produced plays such as Pity Maritburg and Hobo the Man, which told the story of the time. Mkhize believed in promoting ubuntu and in creating a better society. .


Sizwe Laurence Ndlovu: For his excellent contribution to the field of water sport and winning gold for South Africa in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. He serves as a role model for the young ones who also aspire towards highest achievements in life.

Sizwe “Seize” Ndlovu is the most senior member of the South African Lightweight Men’s Four crew, that rose to fame when they came from behind in the 2012 Olympic Regatta in London to win the first ever rowing gold medal for South Africa. Sizwe, otherwise known as “Seize,” became the first black African male rower to win Olympic gold, overcoming injury and illness to become one of Africa’s best rowers.

When Ndlovu started rowing at Mondeor High School in 1997, he was one of four black pupils in the sport but by the end of the season he was the only one left in the team. He is very much driven and a hard worker by nature, which is how he earned his nickname “Seize”. He rises to every occasion.

Since winning the Olympic Gold, Ndlovu has received many accolades. In February 2013 he was named Athlete of the Month by World Rowing, the Lightweight Men’s Four crew “Oarsome Four”, as dubbed by the media, won the Sports Team of the Year Award at the 2012 South African Sports Awards, 2012 World Rowing Crew of the Year Award and has been named in the Top 200 Mail and Guardian Young South Africans list for 2013, to mention but a few of his honours.

In December 2014, Ndlovu was appointed to the World Rowing FISA Athletes Commission. He is currently doing talent identification and development in South African rowing, and coached women’s eight at the University of Johannesburg who were defending their boat-race title in the first week of September 2016.


Zinjiva Winston Nkondo (Posthumous): For his excellent contribution to the struggle for the liberation of the people of South Africa and the creative use of his art as an orator and poet to prick the conscience of the apartheid government. Zinjiva Winston Nkondo was a freedom fighter who served the ANC at various levels, both inside the country and in exile. 

He played a prominent role in student politics while studying at the then University of the North (now called University of Limpopo) in Turfloop, Limpopo in the 1970s. He was detained by the police for 18 months in 1974 and subjected to severe torture. After serving in the underground structures of the organisation inside the country for many years, he left the country in 1977 to join the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe.

A gifted orator, poet and cultural activist, Nkondo joined the ANC’s Radio Freedom and immediately raised broadcasting standards at the station, winning it an increased number of listeners inside the country. He was abducted by the South African police in 1979 while on an ANC mission to Lesotho when, due to bad weather, his flight was diverted to Bloemfontein Airport.

Under international pressure driven mainly by the International Air Travel Association, the South African regime was forced to release him. Between 1983 and 1989, Nkondo was deployed in Nigeria as the ANC’s Chief Representative in that country, responsible for West Africa as well. He immediately mobilised the West African region to support the South African liberation struggle led by the ANC. This culminated in the establishment of a South Africa Friendship Association. Nkondo returned to South Africa in the early 1990s after the ANC was unbanned, and joined the organisation’s communications unit, which he served until the time of his death.

National Orders are awarded to distinguished South African citizens and eminent foreign nationals who have played a significant role towards building a free democratic South Africa. Picture: Pretoria News


John Smith: For his excellent contribution to the field of water sport and winning gold for South Africa in the 2012 Olympic Games. He does not rest on his laurels as he aims for the 2020 Olympic Games on a bigger challenge.

John Smith was born in January 1990. He won a gold medal in the men’s lightweight coxless four event at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Two years later Smith and James Thompson teamed up in the lightweight double sculls to claim the world championship gold in a world record. In both races they came from behind amid strong surges. 

Smith attended St Alban’s College and had to switch sports from water polo to rowing after picking up an injury during a water polo match at age 16. Smith won his first gold medal at the under-23 World Championships in Belarus in 2010, which was South Africa’s first ever rowing gold medal at a World Championship. His mates have rated Smith who is moving up to heavyweight’ as the finest lightweight rower they had worked with.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Smith is already priming himself for the next challenge. He has never been shy to take on big challenges and has decided to move up a weight category as part of his preparation for the 2020 Games in the Tokyo, Japan. Smith knows that with a move from lightweight to heavyweight he is in for a tough challenge. Not only will he have to gain 20 kilograms, he also needs to become much stronger. Since the Olympic Games in Rio, Smith has already gained 12 kg. His goal is to weigh 90 kg becoming stronger and moving closer to his goal for the 2020 games.

Following their 2014 win, Olympic gold medalists Smith and Thompson realised a life-long dream after claiming first place in the lightweight men’s double sculls at the World Rowing Championships in the Netherlands in a new world’s best time. The time of 6:05.36 they set was the best result in history at the global event by a South African crew, with Shaun Keeling and Vincent Breet also adding to the country’s successes by claiming the bronze medal in the men’s pair.


James Thompson: For his excellent contribution to the field of water sport and winning gold for South Africa in the 2012 Olympic Games. He is undoubtedly the pride of the nation by raising South Africa’s international standing.

Thompson is a South African rower. He attended school at the St. Andrew’s College in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape and proceeded to the University of Pretoria for tertiary education, where he eventually graduated with a degree in Sports Science. At university he joined the Tuks rowing club. He made his international debut in 2003, when he won bronze at the World Rowing Junior Championships in the coxed four. He went on to win two silver medals at the under-23 level in the lightweight pair before launching his senior career.

After winning Olympic gold in the lightweight men’s four in London in 2012, he switched to the lightweight double in 2014 and raced to claim his first ever World Championship title.

Thompson is also a keen biker who, after the London Olympics, entered the ABSA Cape Epic, which is the toughest mountain bike race in the world.


Prof Jeff Opland: For his excellent contribution to the field of history and his impressive body of work in literature. His work exhumes stories of the dead and brings them to life so that the living can continue to learn.

Prof Jeff Opland was born in Cape Town, and studied at the University of Cape Town (UCT), where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Language and a Bachelor of Science degree in Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics, as well as an MA and a PhD for a comparison of the Anglo-Saxon and IsiXhosa traditions of oral poetry. He was appointed while holding appointments at UCT, University of Durban-Westville and Rhodes University, he undertook fieldwork in the Eastern Cape, amassing a considerable collection of recorded isiXhosa poetry and literature in print.

He has also taught at the Universities of Toronto, Yale, Vassar College and Charterhouse, as well as the University of Leipzig. In 1972 he won the English Academy of Southern Africa’s Thomas Pringle Award for a literary article. He has published anthologies of South African and isiXhosa poetry, and studies of Anglo-Saxon and isiXhosa literature.

Prof Opland has contributed to a new and progressive historiography through his dedicated and painstaking research into the works of such luminaries as Pixley ka lsaka Seme (former ANC President-General and founder of Abantu-Batho newspaper), Samuel Edward Krune Mqhayi ( Xhosa poet and historian), Reverend Isaac Wauchope (who died in the sinking of the SS Mendi), and many others. He brought to light an important period of enlightenment and resistance not only in the then Cape Colony but in the whole of south and southern Africa.

The single most important achievement of Prof Opland is that he mainstreamed the culture of a colonised and oppressed people by devoting his exceptional scholarship to its rediscovery and contextualisation. A body of literature which had survived for decades hidden deep within innumerable reams of old newsprint buried in obscure locations at home and abroad, was unearthed, edited, contextualised and published, thus recognising its authors and restoring pride and sense of dignity to a formerly colonised people.

Some of these works include The Nation’s Bounty: The Xhosa Poetry of Nontsizi Mgqwetho. (Mgqwetho was the first and only female poet to produce a significant body of work in isiXhosa. The book challenged the view that poetry was the preserve of males and elevated the agency of Xhosa female writers. Another important work was The Dassie and the Hunter, which chronicles the life and poetry of David Yali-Manisi, an extraordinary Xhosa praise poet. It is the first detailed study of the tradition of oral poetry based on actual fieldwork. This is a tradition that goes back hundreds of years and has evolved to become a feature of many important gatherings in South Africa. It caught the imagination of the world and came to its own during the inauguration of former President Nelson Mandela in 1994.


Arthur Nuthall Fula (Posthumous): For his contribution to the field of literature and challenging stereotypes by writing in a third language, Afrikaans. His vivid imagination has inspired many readers and broadened the knowledge of our country.

Fula was born on 16 May 1908 in East London. He received his education at the Siemert School for Coloureds and proceeded to the Eurafrican Normal College but did not complete his primary school teacher’s studies. At the age of 17 he worked at the Wolhulter gold mine and later at the Pioneer gold mine, and later as a cabinetmaker.

In 1952, after a period of unemployment, Fula started worked as an interpreter at the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court. Apart from his mother tongue, isiXhosa, he also spoke isiZulu, Sesotho, Setswana and Sepedi. He wrote and spoke English and Afrikaans fluently, and learnt French at the Alliance Francaise.

After initially attempting to publish in English, he ventured into Afrikaans, which he learnt to speak fluently during his early years in Germiston. At the beginning of 1954 Fula published his debut Afrikaans novel 'Johannie giet die beeld'. The book was reasonably successful and in 1957 his second novel, 'Met ermbarming, O Heer saw the light'. His choice of Afrikaans, in reality his third language, as his primary literary language, came about incidentally rather than by design. But it proved to be an inspired choice. At first, he was, in his own words, “anxious and prejudiced” to write in a language primarily associated with white speakers.

His publishers saw the potential of 'Johannie giet die beeld'. The novel was generally well received by the Afrikaans reading public and went into a second print run, something unusual for a debut novel. Shortly after its publication 'Johannie giet die beeld' was translated into German as Im Golden en Labyrinth (In the Golden Maze, 1956) and into Finnish as Kuftaaju kujuziita (Gold and Misery, 1960) respectively. Carrol Lasker’s English translation The Golden Magnet was published in 1984 by Three Continents Press in Washington DC.

Some of Fula’s other work, mostly poetry, was published in the Swiss Africanist Peter Sulzer’s collections. However, many of his early works remain unpublished and are in fact lost. In the Afrikaans literary community, in the late 1950s, Fula’s debut novel was met with enthusiasm, mostly because of the sociological fact that someone with his social and linguistic background originally wrote the text in Afrikaans. Besides several press statements in English medium newspapers, no critical commentary exists of the contemporary black readers’ community. Fula as a third language speaker reached beyond the social and political boundaries which at the time seemed virtually unbridgeable.


Nokutela Dube (Posthumous): For her exceptional contribution to the upliftment of African communities who were faced with oppression and social injustice.

Dube nee Mdima was born in 1873. She was the first wife of Reverend John Langalibalele Dube, the first President-General of the South African Native National Congress (later called the African National Congress), who together with him built what is today known as the John Dube legacy in South Africa. Together they raised funds in the United States between 1896 and 1899 to build the Ohlange Institute (1900), to establish the newspaper Ilanga Lase Natal (1903) as well as other pioneering initiatives that advanced the course of black nationalism and development in colonial South Africa.

Her many talents were crucial in the establishment of the ground-breaking black educational institution in Inanda, the Ohlange Institute. Leaders such as Albert Luthuli were taught by Mama Nokutela Dube at the Ohlange Institute in 1914.

Dube was educated at Inanda Seminary and became the earliest graduate of this prestigious fountain of African women’s leadership. She was a talented singer and piano and autoharp player, a highly-skilled seamstress, an inspiring educator and a voice for Africa in the United States of America and Europe in the late 19th and 20th centuries. She received additional training in the United States at the Union Missionary Training Institute in Brooklyn, New York, between 1896 and 1899. She is the co-author with John L. Dube of a book titled Amagama Abantu (A Zulu Song Book), 1911, a book which stands as a landmark in the development of Zulu choral music.

It is through her effort as a music teacher and choral director at Ohlange that the song, Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika became known as the anthem of the Struggle for African dignity. Her example as a confident and modern African woman impressed so many young women of her time that Ms Lillian Tshabalala from Groutville, the future founder of Daughters of Africa, decided to study in America and later became a missionary in West Africa, thus planting the seeds of modern African womanhood in distant parts of the continent.

Up until her death in 1917, Dube travelled many times with her husband John to the United States to seek financial support for their work to uplift their people through industrial education, following on the model of the famous African-American leader Booker T. Washington, the founder of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Because their school was totally independent of the Natal Department of Education, it was viewed with suspicion by the colonial authorities and deprived of financial support. Nokutela and John Dube’s passion as fundraisers and promoters of African education was crucial in sustaining their school for over many years, which benefited black South Africans and Africans of neighbouring countries.


Milner Langa Kabane (Posthumous): For his excellent contribution to the field of education and the upliftment of the black community during the struggle for liberation. He lived by the courage of his conviction in adverse conditions.

Milner Langa Kabane, son of the Wesleyan Minister William Kabane, was born at the Cwecweni Methodist Mission Station, near Butterworth in the Eastern Cape on 18 June 1900. After receiving his early education at Cwecweni, Langa went to school for five years at Healdtown where he completed a primary teacher training course in 1918. He qualified to enter for matriculation at the South African Native College (SANC) – later called Fort Hare University – in June 1920 and matriculated in 1922.

Thereafter, Langa continued his studies at the SANC and enrolled for a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree, which he completed in 1924 and completed a teacher’s diploma in 1925. Those qualifications paved the way for an almost unparalleled teaching career that spanned from the mid-1920s to the early 1940s in a number of prominent schools.

The first of those was at Lovedale College, where he was later also appointed a principal of that mission school. At the helm of Lovedale, some of his white colleagues took exception to being led by an African and duly conspired for his demotion. However, Langa remained steadfast on augmenting his qualifications and went to Yale University in the United States to study the Principles of Education and Psychology of Education.

Returning from Yale, he went to teach at the Bloemfontein Bantu High School in the Orange Free State from the late 1930s and it was in that province where he became active in politics. He served as President of the Orange Free State Teachers’ Association and also became an executive committee member of the All African Convention after its formation in 1936. Langa became a member of the committee that reported directly to the ANC President Dr AB Xuma during the early 1940s on the findings of the Atlantic Charter. He and his wife Helena Villa Kabane became critical organising members in the drafting of the document titled Bill of Rights and the Atlantic Charter from the African’s point of view. This mainly agitated for African representation, franchise and Bill of Rights within a segregated Union of South Africa. Unfortunately, he died untimely in 1945 whilst still articulating for such broader rights of Africans within the Union of South Africa.


Getrude Ntlabathi (Posthumous): For her contribution to the empowerment of women through education. Among others she produced students who grew to become renowned leaders, such as the late former President Nelson Mandela.

Ntlabathi was born in 1901 into a Christian landowning family in the Hewu district of Queenstown in the Eastern Cape. After early primary schooling in the Hackney village of Hewu, her parents sent her to the famous Presbyterian School, Emgwali in the Stutterheim district, which affiliated to the church and mission station started in 1857 by Tiyo Soga. At Emgwali, Ntlabathi did her senior primary schooling and enrolled for Lower Primary Teacher’s Course (LPTC) training. By 1918, at the age of 17, she was one of the first women to qualify for entry to matric at the South African Native College (SANC), which later became Fort Hare University.

In 1921 Ntlabathi’s home district of Hewu experienced the infamous Bulhoek incident involving the brutal killing of several people by security police. In 1922 she upgraded her LPTC to a Teachers’ Diploma and thereafter taught at the Buchanan Mission School in Middledrift until 1925. She then returned to the SANC to register for a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree. In 1928, she once again became a pioneering achiever as the very first African woman to graduate with a BA at this institution.

From 1929, Ntlabathi taught at a number of famous schools that included the Inanda Seminary for Girls in Natal, then briefly at the Wilberforce Institute in Evaton and the Clarkebury Methodist School in Engcobo. It was in that latter school where she excelled in the teaching of the English language in the junior secondary classes. Amongst the many famous pupils she taught was a young Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela, during the early to mid-1930s. In fact Ntlabathi is on record in Mandela’s autobiography as one of his best teachers at Clarkebury.

Ntlabathi returned to Natal and taught at the eminent Indaleni School outside Richmond from 1938 to 1941. It was whilst working at that school that she married fellow teacher, Golden Sithole in 1941. They were blessed with two children; Linda and Jabulani. It was from the year 1942, when she had moved to Alexandra Township and teaching under the Transvaal Education Department that Gertrude became a prominent voice for the struggle of women’s access to further education.

Continuing contact with the Rector of the SANC, Alexander Kerr, she wrote one emotional letter to him in August 1943 and appealed: “why Fort Hare gives scholarships only to men to pursue postgraduate studies overseas or elsewhere? Why you Sir knowing my avidity for knowledge [and] learning have passed me by when golden opportunities are offered to Fort Hare graduates? I am not satisfied with the Bachelor of Arts Degree, I never was…”

Despite her discontent with women privileges she unrelentingly served the education community. Her, last service during the late 1960s was beyond the normal retirement age as she continued to teach at the Menzi High School, in Umlazi south of Durban. She died in 1990, the year Nelson Mandela was released from prison, still a staunch defender of women’s rights. She was laid to rest at the Chersterville Cemetery, west of Durban.


Pfarelo Rebecca Ramugondo: For her outstanding contribution to community service and upliftment.

Ms Pfarelo Rebecca Ramugondo is from Ha-Makhuvha Village, which is situated 25 km east of Thohoyandou in Limpopo. The river nearby the village, which was the sole supplier of household water, was turned into a dumping area and she formed a group of young women and men to clean the river, an initiative called “Tshikofokofo” adopt-a-river project, in order to have drinkable water.

Ramugondo started this project on 3 August 2010 with the aim of protecting water resources and the surrounding environment. To avoid health problems, domestic water should be free from harmful pathogens, chemicals and physical properties.

The objective of the project is to conserve and protect water resources from pollution to ensure sustainable food security and human health in the surrounding areas of Ha-Makhuvha Village. The project was triggered by lack of water supply as communities were forced to use water from unprotected springs, which posed serious health implications.


Prof Olive Shisana: For her outstanding contribution to the field of science and community service, particularly her tireless work in researching solutions to the scourges of HIV and AIDS.

Prof Olive Shisana is an exceptional social scientist and public health specialist who has been in Public Service for more than 30 years – both in exile and back home. She has served as Director-General in the Department of Health, Principal Investigator in several national population-based HIV surveys, President of the International Social Science Council, and Chief Executive Officer of the Human Sciences Research Council. She is a recipient of the South African Academy of Sciences “Science-for-Society” Gold Medal in 2013.

She has also worked at the World Health Organization (Executive Director for Family and Community Health) and chaired the inaugural Council of the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) Think Tanks after South Africa joined BRICS. She is an honorary professor at the University of Cape Town (Psychiatry and Mental Health Department) and was awarded the Doctor of Laws honoris causa degree by Monash University.

She always brings wisdom, boundless energy and an eye for practical solutions to the meeting places of science and community service. She participated in the liberation struggle, led the technical team that demarcated South Africa into nine provinces and participated in transforming the civil service. She is best known for her contributions to social sciences research in the areas of HIV and AIDS and National Health Insurance.

She is currently the President and CEO of Evidence Based Solutions (Pty) Ltd, a new company dedicated to providing research and technological support in the areas of public health and information and communications technology for health to African countries.


Miltha Mary “Mamou” Calata (Posthumous): For her excellent contribution to the fight against apartheid and to poverty alleviation. She went beyond her call of duty to help alleviate the burden of poverty from the poor by encouraging self-reliance.

Calata was the wife of the late Rev Canon James Arthur Calata, an Anglican priest. She came from the rural area of Qoboqobo (Keiskammahoek) in the Eastern Cape. A teacher by profession, she defied stereotypes that girls should not be educated as their future is in marriage. It came natural to her to continue this fight as she herself had three daughters and was so determined to get them educated. Her community work in Cradock was remarkable. She encouraged people to have gardens in their homes, vegetables at the back and flowers in front of the house. Not only could people feed their families from these gardens but they could also sell their produce to markets.

She challenged the local municipality to run garden competitions to motivate residents. Winners would get publicity, seeds and help for their gardens; some people even went around doing other people’s gardens to make money. Although they were Anglicans, she encouraged interdenominational participation by calling meetings for all womens’ unions from different churches to discuss issues facing the community. All people in the townships loved her for this.

Her politics came from supporting her husband but she was also active in politics. Calata led protesters in defying the curfew regulations by holding a prayer meeting on a street corner in Cradock. For this she was arrested and detained indefinitely.


David Mbulelo “Spi” Grootboom (Posthumous): For his excellent contribution to the fight for liberation and dignity for the people of South Africa. He believed in the equality of all citizens and challenged injustices to the hilt.

David Mbulelo “Spi” Grootboom was a selfless community leader who championed the cause of the anti-apartheid struggle in Oudtshoorn and the Klein Karoo. It was during the 80s when the people of Bongolethu Township were at the receiving end of harsh repression at the hands of the kraagdadigheid rule of the openly racist Oudtshoorn Local Municipality, who denied the community of this township proper municipal services.

In the '80s the then security branch of the police, waged a reign of terror on those who dared to challenge and voice protest against the local municipality. Grootboom led the formation of the Bongoletu Youth Organisation, a vibrant anti-apartheid organisation that became the nemesis of the local security branch. It became the voice of local residents resisting the municipality and was instrumental in taking over the struggle for municipal services, particularly housing. (Check this paragraph again from the main source)

He was instrumental in bringing together the community structures of Bongoletu and Bridgton to unite in the struggle against the apartheid organs in Oudtshoorn. The unity displayed by the communities of both Bridgton and Bongolethu was one of those that led to the formation of the United Democratic Front, which was launched in 1983, around the same time when Oudtshoorn was engulfed in the anti-apartheid struggle.

In 1983 Grootboom and Reggie Oliphant were instrumental in the establishment in Oudtshoorn of Saamstaan, a trilingual community newspaper that was the voice of the struggle of the rural communities and courageously wrote about the harsh oppression of farmworkers in nearby farms. For its courageous journalism, the newspaper was constantly harassed by the state. Its offices were searched, burgled, several editions confiscated and or even banned by the State while its workers were constantly detained. Grootboom graduated from the University of the Western Cape and began work in the field of social justice. Even in the new democratic dispensation, he declined numerous overtures for him to accept nomination to serve in the national assembly.

Grootboom also declined offers to assume mayorship in the local Oudtshoorn Municipality. He instead dedicated himself to working with smaller non-governmental organisations (NGOs). He would argue that he believes his work was not complete as there were still challenges of social inequalities and injustices. He worked at various NGOs throughout the Western Cape before eventually joining the Department of Social Development in the province. Later he transferred back to his hometown of Oudtshoorn as he wanted to remain in contact with the community. He died in August 2015 after a long battle with diabetes.


Prof Fatima Meer (Posthumous): For her excellent contribution to the struggle for liberation. Her gallant and steadfast opposition to social injustices for decades is commendable.

Prof Meer was born in Durban in 1928. Her political career began at the age of 17 when she was a high school student. The Indian community suffered the enactment of the first Segregation Act which restricted their economic and residential rights to specific areas in the country. The Indian community resisted by organising Satyagraha, the first since Gandhi’s Satyagraha at the close of the century.

Prof Meer mobilised high schools students and established the Students Passive Resistance Committee to canvass and raise funds for the Passive Resistance Campaign. As a student leader she addressed a number of mass meetings during the course of the Passive Resistance Campaign, sharing the platform with the leaders of the campaign, doctors Dadoo, GM Naicker and Goonum.

Prof Meer was involved in the Phoenix Settlement and was a member of its board. In 1969 she published a book, Portrait of Indian South Africans, she donated the total proceeds thereof to the Gandhi Settlement towards the building of the Gandhi Museum and Clinic. In the 1970s Prof Meer was involved in student and women’s politics.

She was a frequent speaker opposing the apartheid system on many platforms throughout the country on anti-apartheid and religious issues. Prof Meer also played a prominent part in bringing understanding between the communities on Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. She was a prolific writer with painstaking research on many topics analysing the human condition and cataloguing the history of South Africa.

She led rescue operations for 10 000 disadvantaged Indian flood victims of Tin Town on the banks of the Umgeni River and initiated their temporary settlement in tents, and organised relief in food and clothing. She also successfully negotiated permanent housing for them in Phoenix. She founded and headed the Natal Education Trust, which raised large sums of money from the Indian community to build schools in the African townships. She served as a member of Parliament and passed on in 2010.


Collen Monde Mkunqwana (Posthumous): For his contribution to the struggle for the liberation of the people of South Africa. He bravely sacrificed his own safety, waging resistance against a dangerous system that meted out maximum force to repress dissent.

Monde Mkunqwana was born in 1938 in Centane, Eastern Cape. He is a former Robben Island prisoner who distinguished himself in the struggle for the liberation of the oppressed people of South Africa. He is a descendent of Makhanda Nxele, a warrior who led the attack against the British in Grahamstown. He was considered an organic intellectual because of his gigantic influence and contribution to the education of other political prisoners.

Mkunqwana became politically conscious at a very early stage in his life. When the Defiance Campaign was launched in 1952, he followed the events and made a decision to join the forces of liberation. He joined politics in the early 1950s at Mafigo, in old Tsolo in East London.

He became part of the underground structures of the African National Congress (ANC) in 1960/61, when the leadership of the ANC decided to continue with the Struggle underground after the political organisations were banned by the racist regime of the Nationalist Party after the Sharpeville massacre.

In East London and the entire Border region, the underground structures were led and commanded by Border Regional High Command comprising comrades Malcomess Johnson Mgabela, Douglas Zulu Sparks, Thuli Masiza, Washington Mpumelelo Bongco, Stephen Vukile Tshwete and Lungelo Shadrack Dwaba. Mkunqwana was one of the dedicated members in the border region to establish the local structure of MK when it was formed in 1961.

He was appointed the Chairperson of the Eastern Cape Provincial Heritage Resources Authority for a three-year term from April 2006 to March 2009. He also served as a member of the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality District Geographical Place Names Committee from 2007 to 2010.

He was also instrumental in memorialization and immortalization of selfless contribution of local icons of the liberation struggle to ensure that they formed the backbone of the Liberation Heritage Route. Mkunqwana was able to provide information that led to the repatriation and reburial of many MK combatants, and those of the Azanian People’s Liberation Army, from various parts of the African continent.

He played an important role in the repatriation of the spirit of the local hero, Makhanda kaNxele, who died on Robben Island on 25 December 1819 after attempting to escape, having been convicted for leading an attack against the British garrison at Grahamstown in what later became known as the Battle of Grahamstown of 1819. The spirit of kaNxele was ultimately laid to rest at Tshabo Village near Berlin.


Zodwa Mofokeng (Posthumous): For her relentless fight against government’s oppression in South Africa. She defied oppressive rule and advanced the cause of liberation and justice for all South Africans.

Mofokeng was dedicated to politics all her life. She was dedicated to serving in the African National Congress (ANC) and the community at large. In the early 80s she led the community of Endulweni Section in Tembisa to fight for the tarring of roads. She led a march against the bucket system where the women took toilet buckets to the Mayor to show him they wanted the sewerage system.

She led the community of Tafeni Section in Tembisa to acquire houses by converting a local hostel. She and other comrades managed to accomplish this and turned the hostel into a residential area. She later led a march to the Kempton Park Magistrate’s Court to stop the police from killing people whenever there was the burial of a comrade and police subsequently stopped the killings.

Mofokeng was in and out of prison and consequently never raised her children as she wished. She survived two assassination attempts by the security branch. She was involved in the rent boycott campaign. As an active member of the ANC and ANC Women’s League in Gauteng, she also held several positions in the movement. She was also one of the founding members of the Tembisa Residents’ Association and street communities. Mofokeng testified in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission about police brutality against her and her husband. She was so traumatised that day that she collapsed and was taken to hospital. Two weeks later, on 12 December 1996, she passed on.


“Samson Ndou and 21 others”: For their brave fight against apartheid. They suffered but stood fiercely with the courage of their convictions for their freedom.

The majority of these men and women were arrested in May 1969 and were held in solitary confinement for the seven months until they appeared in court in December 1969. They were charged under the Suppression of Communism Act, 1950 (Act 44 of 1950) – renamed the Internal Security Act in 1976 – in a case known as “State vs Samson Ndou and 21 others”. They were charged for offences allegedly committed from 1967 until the date of arrest. They were charged with 21 main charges, most of them concerned with membership of the African National Congress (ANC). Some of the charges included the alleged plot to obtain explosives and commit acts of sabotage in Johannesburg and nearby areas. The state accused them of inspecting trains and railway installations at Braamfontein, Croesus, Booysens and Crown Mines and searched for the Langeberg Cooperative to find suitable targets and methods for committing acts of sabotage.

Most of these men and women had been leading members of the ANC prior to its banning, the South African Congress of the Trade Unions, the ANC Women’s League and the Transvaal Indian Congress.

The names of the 21 others are: Mr David Motau; Ms Winnie Madikizela Mandela; Mr Jackson Mahlaule; Mr Elliot Shabangu; Ms Joyce Sikakane; Mr Lawrence Ndzanga; Ms Rita Ndzanga; Mr Joseph Zikalala; Mr David Dalton Tsotetsi; Mr George Mokwebo; Mr Joseph Chamberlain Nobanda; Mr Samuel Solomon Pholoto; Mr Simon Mosikare; Mr Douglas Mtshetshe Mvemve; Ms Venus Thokozile Mngoma; Ms Martha Dlamini; Mr Owen Vanqa; Mr Peter Sexforth Magubane; Mr Paulos Matshaba; Ms Shantie Naidoo; Ms Nomwe Mamkhala.

Benjamin Ramotso was the other accused who on 18 June 1970 was a trained cadre of Umkhonto we Sizwe. He was kidnapped in Botswana in June 1968 transferred to the then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) where he was severely tortured before being handed over to the South African Police in July 1968.

The significance of this case lies in the fact that it was related to activities that took place a few years after the landmark Rivonia Trial. In the aftermath of the banning of the political organisations which political activity was severely repressed, activists were driven underground or locked up in prisons. The activists constituted themselves into a powerful motor force for the regrouping of the resistance movement. Their actions inspired enthusiasm for organisation and mobilisation as well as for new forms of political formation and struggles. The intention of the apartheid state was largely defeated.


Reginald “Reggie” Oliphant (Posthumous): For his contribution to the fight against social injustices meted out against black people in South Africa. His steadfast belief in the equality of all citizens prompted him to confront the tyranny of apartheid.

Oliphant was a teacher by profession. He rose to prominence when the Bridgton coloured community were under constant repression by the Oudtshoorn Municipality, which would evict residents from council houses because they defaulted in rent payment. He put his teaching career on the line and took up the fight against the local municipality. As a result he was constantly harassed and detained and never enjoyed a focused teaching career.

At one stage, after a long detention spell, the security police conspired with the then education authorities to have him transferred to a farm school in the small town of Kenhardt, an isolated town in the Northern Cape, far away from his family and community.

Undeterred, Oliphant quit teaching and returned to Oudtshoorn and revived his political activism and reunited with his fellow comrades. He and his contemporaries were instrumental in the formation of the United Democratic Front in their home region of the Southern Cape and Klein Karoo. They were instrumental in bringing national leaders of the anti-apartheid struggle to Oudtshoorn.

When the African National Congress was unbanned in 1990, Oliphant was unanimously elected its first chairperson in Oudtshoorn. After the 1999 elections, he was elected as Member of Parliament and served in the portfolio committees on public works and health respectively. While visiting family members in Mitchells Plain in 2003, gangs shot and killed him in an ambush attack. Four gang members were later arrested, convicted and sentenced.


Neville Rubin: For his contribution to the fight for the rights of workers through involvement in workers’ unions. He gallantly voiced out his opposition in the period when it was risky to one’s life to speak up.

Rubin was President of the National Union of South African Students in 1959 and later Chairperson of the international Students’ Conference. He fought a successful battle against the Nationalist government’s expulsion of African students from the traditionally white universities.

Rubin was a radical activist in the Liberal Party of South Africa from its inception in 1953, opposing apartheid in many campaigns. In 1965, having joined the underground African Resistance Movement, he was arrested by the Portuguese Police on the Swaziland-Mozambique border and jailed until released on the intervention of the British government, which had granted him entry to Britain to take up a teaching post at the School of Oriental and African Studies at London University.

In England he was active in the Namibia Support Committee, campaigning for South Africa’s withdrawal from the territory. He was adviser to Ethiopia and Liberia at the International Court of Justice in their case for the cancellation of South Africa’s League of Nations Mandate in what was then South West Africa (now Namibia). Among other effective actions at the United Nations (UN) he helped create UN Decree No 1, banning the export of Namibian natural resources except as authorised by the UN Council for Namibia.

He was a director of the Defence and Aid Fund of the United Kingdom and legal adviser when its role of transmitting funds to South Africa for the defence of those on trial for political sentences and aid to their families was banned by the apartheid government.


Zweli Lucas Sizani (Posthumous): For his excellent contribution to the liberation movement and struggle for democracy. He selflessly put his life in danger for the freedom and equality of all South Africans.

Sizani was born in 1957. He was a leader and social activist during the historic uprisings of 1976.

He was involved in activism at Orlando High School in Soweto. Sizani was part of the youth in the early seventies that emerged at a time when prospects of a change from repression and apartheid rule were dim and slim. In 1975 he became the president of the interim committee that was to prepare for the launch of the national student movement called the South African Student Movement (SASM).

After the launch, his focus was on expanding and consolidating the student movement nationally. That saw him criss-crossing the length and breadth of South Africa to spread the ideals of the new organisation. Later in 1975, he was appointed to the position of organising secretary to replace Amos Masondo who had been detained by the security police. Sizani accepted that position at a time when political unrest led to the arrests and detention of many high school students throughout the country.

After avoiding Security Police arrests, Sizani realised that he may run out of luck and get arrested, which was going to be a big scoop for the police. He secretly sneaked out of the country in September 1977. At the time of leaving the country, he had been the longest-serving organiser of the students’ movement, and the only SASM member to have served both in the pre- and post-June 1976 SASM executive committees.

Upon arriving in exile, he joined the ANC, where he was trained as a cadre of MK. He continued working in different structures within the movement and occupied different positions. He expanded his political knowledge by reading and attending political schools. His quest for knowledge took him to different countries, including Cuba. He became a beacon of knowledge amongst his peers. He returned home after many years of exile life. He dedicated his life to political education of young and new members joining the ANC.


Prof Fulufhelo Nelwamondo: For his excellent contribution to the field of science, particularly electrical engineering. He serves as an enormous inspiration to young people in South Africa.

Prof Nelwamondo was born in 1982 in Limpopo. He started school at Belemu Primary School at Belemu Village, where he had to walk a long distance from the Lukau Village, where he lived, through two villages, before reaching the school, all within the greater Lwamondo Village. Prof Nelwamondo grew up like most villagers, tending goats and cattle,fetching fire wood and water from the local spring or river. All the village activities did not deter his interest in education, despite many of his peers dropping out of school for one reason or another.

In 1995 he enrolled atMbilwi Secondary school, where he later matriculated. Determined to make a difference in his own country, he made up his mind to follow a career in engineering. Prof Nelwamondo was awarded a bursary by Eskom to study Electrical Engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand. He became the first member of his family to attend university. Despite the mounting pressure to assist his parents financially, he had the urge to continue with his studies against all odds, until he completed his PhD. He was awarded a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard University. Through his progression, Prof Nelwamondo became the first in many things, in his family. These included being the first to board a plane, travel overseas and graduate with a degree.

Prof Nelwamondo is now an electrical engineer, and holds a Bachelor of Science and PhD in Electrical Engineering degrees in the area of Computational Intelligence, both from the University of the Witwatersrand. He is a registered Professional Engineer, and and Executive Director of Modelling and Digital Science at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. He is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and a visiting professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Johannesburg. He has research and practical experience in software engineering and in computational intelligence in various applications. Prof Nelwamondo is one of the youngest South Africans ever to receive the Harvard-South Africa Fellowship and has been awarded many national and international research accolades, from organisations such as the IEEE and South African Institute of Electrical Engineers, among others. He has been awarded several accolades for best research and he has supervised a number of Masters and Doctoral students in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Prof Nelwamondo has published over 100 research papers in journals, reviewed conferences and book chapters. He

Fulufhelo Nelwamondo is a founding member of the South African Young Academy of Science and served on the Department of Home Affairs ministerial advisory committee on modernisation.


Siyabulela Lethuxolo Xuza: For his excellent contribution to scientific innovation at an early stage, proving to himself and others that through determination and hard work one can achieve new career heights. His brilliance has attracted great international great to his work.

Mr Siyabulela Lethuxolo Xuza was born in Mthatha in 1989. He is a South African energy-engineering expert and entrepreneur with a passion for clean affordable energy. He had the prestigious honour of having a minor planet named after him by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration-affiliated Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory, in recognition of his innovation in homemade rocket fuel. The minor planet in the main asteroid belt near Jupiter, with an orbital period of four years, was discovered in 2000 and renamed “23182 Siyaxuza” in recognition of Xuza’s achievements at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in the United States.

Xuza began experimenting with rocket fuels in his mother’s kitchen. This passion turned into a serious science project that culminated in him developing a cheaper and safer rocket fuel, which culminated in the successful launch of a real home-built rocket, The Phoenix. His rocket achieved a final height of over a kilometre and earned him the junior South African amateur high-powered altitude record.

The rocket was propelled by Xuza’s own invention: a cheaper, safer type of rocket fuel, which became the subject of a project titled “African Space: Fuelling Africa’s quest to space”. Xuza’s science project won gold at the National Science Expo and the Dr Derek Gray Memorial Award for the most prestigious project in South Africa. This led to an invitation to the International Youth Science Fair in Sweden in 2006, where he presented his project to the King and Queen of Sweden and attended a Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm. His project was then entered into the world’s biggest student science event, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, attracting about 1 500 students from 52 countries.. He won the two grand awards, earning him global recognition and a scholarship to Harvard University.

In 2010 he was elected as a fellow of the African Leadership Network, a premier network of individuals poised to shape Africa’s future over the next 10-20 years, consisting of the most dynamic, influential and successful leaders and entrepreneurs in Africa and its Diaspora. He travelled to the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to engage in discussions on creating prosperity for Africa.

In 2011 he became a fellow of the Kairos Society, a global network of top student and global leaders using entrepreneurship and innovation to solve the world’s greatest challenges. He was invited to the United Nations and the New York Stock Exchange, in recognition for being one of the world’s emerging business leaders, to offer strategies for solving the world’s energy crisis.

Xuza recently became the youngest member of the AU-affiliated Africa 2.0 Energy Advisory Panel. He was invited to Mombasa, Kenya, to assist in finding sustainable solutions to some of the most pressing economic and social issues facing Africans today. He is also an accomplished Xhosa praise singer and in 2003 he had the honour of performing a praise song for former President Nelson Mandela.


His Excellency Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao: For his exceptional contribution to the promotion of peace and resistance to social injustices. His selfless service of others bears witness and inspires many in the global community.

Former President and Prime Minister of East Timor, His Excellency Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao, is often referred to as the Mandela of Asia. He remains a voice of reason and moderation in the debate over the future of the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste and like former President Mandela, he continues to advocate reconciliation rather than retribution as the best method of healing Timor Leste’s wounds inflicted by the Republic of Indonesia during its colonial occupation.

Gusmao is the Minister for Mentorship Planning and Strategic Investment of the Government of Timor-Leste. Until stepping aside on 16 February 2015 to facilitate a generational leadership transition, he was the Prime Minister of his country for seven and a half years. Prior to this role as Prime Minister, he served as the first elected President of the Republic after being sworn in on 20 May 2002, the day marking Timor-Leste’s official restoration of independence.

He began his involvement with the Timorese independence movement by joining the Marxist Revolutionary Front for East Timor’s Independence, founded on 20 May 1974. He was elected as the deputy head of its department of information and was a central figure in the quest for independence.

After the Indonesian occupation in 1975 he became deeply engaged in the resistance struggle. In 1981 he was elected Leader of the Resistance and Commander-in-Chief of the national liberation armed forces of Timor-Leste. He went on to conceive and implement the policy of national unity, bringing together all resistance movements to work cooperatively to achieve the goal of national sovereignty under the banner of the National Council of Maubere Resistance. On 20 November 1992, after 17 years of active resistance, he was captured in the capital Dili, charged with subversion and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Even though imprisoned in lndonesia until September 1999, he continued to lead the struggle to achieve freedom for his people. In July 1997, Mandela, while on a State Visit to Indonesia, not only called for the immediate release of Gusmao, but also insisted on meeting with him; not in prison but in the State Guest House, where he had dinner with him.

After the meeting, Mandela reiterated calls for Gusmao’s release, saying that his release was essential to resolving the conflict in Timor Leste. After international pressure, Indonesia’s President Habibie, announced on 27 January 1999 that Timor Leste will be allowed to vote on self-determination on 30 August 1999. Timor Leste’s first democratic general elections were held on 30 August 2001. Gusmao did not stand in the election but used his authority and charisma to ensure that the vote is conducted in a free and fair manner without violence or intimidation.

Since the first democratic general elections in Timor-Leste, Gusmao has served in different positions in government. He has directed all his efforts to the task of national reconciliation, reconstruction, continuing his life-long work of service to uphold the independence and dignity of the people of Timor-Leste.


Maurice Bogatsu (Posthumous): For his excellent contribution to the fight for liberation, carrying out dangerous missions between South Africa and Botswana with the members of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK).

Bogatsu was born in Mochudi Village, Botswana and was a Botswana Government public servant, employed as a driver. He was married to a South African African National Congress (ANC) sympathizer who introduced him to Keith Mokoape, an MK commander. The commander introduced him to the Operational Command, who gave Bogatsu money to buy and register a vehicle in his name.

Each time the Command intended to send weapons into South Africa, Bogatsu would be requested to surrender the vehicle. It would be packed with materiel and literature, and he would be asked to go shopping in Johannesburg, but leave the car at a particular spot, to fetch it at a prescribed time.

Bogatsu, not knowing what he was carrying, undertook several trips, until he was sold out by one of the commanders on the Operational Command. It was later discovered that the man was Peter Mogoai, who had infiltrated the ANC. Bogatsu, under severe torture, stood his ground, and was sentenced to eight years on Robben Island. During his jail term his wife divorced him, and when he was released with other political prisoners to pave way for negotiations, returned to his home country, Botswana.


Euzhan Palcy: For her excellent contribution to the liberation struggle by exposing South African social injustices through an international film that strengthened the revolution against apartheid.

Palcy raised awareness about South African social injustices by converting the anti-apartheid novel of Andre Brink: A Dry White Season (1989) into film. She travelled to South Africa defying the special section of the apartheid regime with the help of Dr Nthato Motlana, Nelson Mandela’s personal physician and friend, who smuggled her into Soweto undercover. She risked her life to accurately portray apartheid in A Dry White Season and to give a voice to the oppressed South Africans. She convinced the studio to hire an all-South-African black cast (rather than African-American) for the role of blacks. She made a revolution and made history in Hollywood.

For this film Palcy successfully brought back Marlon Brando to the cinema screens. She received the Orson Welles Award for her outstanding work in Los Angeles in 1989. In a Washington Post interview “Apartheid through an angry lens” on 26 September 1989, Donna Britt writes: “Palcy approaches filmmaking and life the same way (Spike Lee and Costa Gavras). This is a woman who never saw herself as a singer, but who cut an album of songs for local children because, “the only albums of song for children in Martinique were coming from France.”

Palcy became the first black female director produced by a major Hollywood studio (MGM) and the only woman who succeeded in directing an anti-apartheid narrative feature film during the apartheid era.

If Gibson Kente’s How long (1976): a play filmed during the Soweto riots does not belong to the narrative feature film genre, Ms Palcy may then be considered as the only black director in history to have directed an anti-apartheid narrative feature film during Nelson Mandela’s 27 years sentence and as a matter of fact, the first black director in the apartheid era.

She was the only director in the apartheid era who succeeded to convince a Hollywood production to have only black South African cast (and not African American or any other blacks)in an anti-apartheid narrative feature film. She was already the first black person to win a Cesar (French Oscar) in 1984 and the first black person to win a Venice Film Festival Lion.

Palcy is a Knight in the National Order of the French Legion of Honour since 2004; Officer in the National Order of Merit 2011 (handed by President Sarkozy), Knight of Les Arts et des Lettres since 1984 (handed by Minister of Culture Jack Lang). She was awarded the Medal of the city of Bordeaux in 2013. She received the Gold Medal of Martinique in 1990. She is Citizen of Honour of New York City, New Orleans, Sarasotta and Atlanta.

African News Agency

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