President Jacob Zuma, second left, talks with Mandla Mandela, left, after they and other dignitaries unveiled a bust of former president Nelson Mandela, right, at Parliament in Cape Town. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)

President Jacob Zuma calls for nominations of those who have inspired us through their excellence, integrity and service to all of humanity.

Pretoria - On April 27, 1994, millions of our people voted for a new democratic order that guaranteed that never again would humanity be taken away from any South African, irrespective of their race, gender, culture, language, creed or geographical location.

The birth of this new non-racial and non-sexist democracy necessitated a critical review of the system of national symbols, and in particular the National Orders.

The previous system had consisted of one decoration and four orders, representing the country’s oppressive and racist past. The National Orders are the highest honour that our country bestows on its citizens and eminent foreign nationals who have contributed towards the advancement of democracy.

They also honour people who have made a significant impact on improving the lives of South Africans. As we mark 20 years of freedom we congratulate yet again all the men and women who have contributed immensely to building this country. We are inspired and buoyed by the excellence, integrity and service to humanity they have demonstrated.

We recall all these attributes when the time comes to celebrate their contribution through the National Orders.

New National Orders were introduced in 2002 to celebrate the dawn of freedom and democracy and underline the country’s journey towards an inclusive heritage and unity.

Some of the National Orders have recognised heroes and heroines of our selfless struggle for liberation, which was waged on local and foreign soil by remarkable freedom fighters who loved this country and its people more than anything in this world.

In this way, the National Orders promote reconciliation and nation building as they reverse the previously distorted history of this country, in which freedom fighters were branded as terrorists.

Other National Orders celebrate excellence demonstrated by South Africans in various fields, including acts of bravery by those who risk their lives to save the lives of others.

The illustrious list of recipients include Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Adelaide Tambo, Nokuhamba Nyawo, Amina Cachalia, Harry Gwala, Charlotte Maxeke, Ruth First, Passfour Phungula, Mitta Sperepere, Moses Mabhida, Joe Nhlanhla, Steve Tshwete, Frene Ginwala, John Jabavu, Pixlely ka Seme, Mlungisi Griffiths Mxenge, Victoria Nonyamezelo Mxenge – in fact, a long list of revolutionaries and freedom fighters of note.

The government has also recognised excellence and remarkable achievements by veteran journalists, scientists, teachers, businesspeople, youth leaders, sports people and nation builders. These illustrious citizens and eminent foreign nationals are recognised through the six various Orders.

These are 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 OR Tambo.

The Order of Mendi for Bravery recognises South African citizens who have performed acts of bravery.

The Order of Ikhamanga recognises South African citizens who have excelled in the fields of arts, culture, literature, music, journalism and sport.

The Order of the Baobab recognises South African citizens who have contributed to community service, business and economy, science, medicine and technological innovation. The Order of Luthuli recognises South African citizens who have contributed to the struggle for democracy, nation-building, building democracy and human rights, justice and peace as well as for the resolution of conflict.

The Order of Mapungubwe recognises South Africans who have accomplished excellence and exceptional achievement to the benefit of South Africa and beyond.

The Order of the Companions of OR Tambo recognises eminent foreign nationals for friendship shown to South Africa.

It is therefore an order of peace, co-operation and active expression of solidarity and support.

Among the renowned recipients of this prestigious order include President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Kenneth Kaunda, Kofi Annan, Martin Luther King, Jr., Patrice Lumumba, Agostinho Neto, Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Fidel Castro, Salim Ahmed Salim, Peter Hain, Danny Glover, Quincy Jones, Alfre Woodard, Harry Belafonte and other eminent persons from around the world.

Together let us celebrate selflessness, integrity and excellence among our people and friends of the Republic and our people beyond our borders. I therefore wish to remind the public of the important role of nominating people who deserve to receive a National Order from the government and the people of South Africa. My office awaits your inputs. Forms are available at

Fax your nominations to 086 646 5373. The deadline is July 31.

* President Jacob Zuma is the Grand Patron of the National Orders.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

Pretoria News