President Jacob Zuma.

Bloemfontein -

Founding members of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the former military wing of the African National Congress, received military service medals from President Jacob Zuma on Thursday.

“Many have been inspired by the veterans of the past,” Zuma told a military parade and guests at the Bloemspruit Air Force Base.

It was the first medal parade to be held since the inception of the department of military veterans.

Zuma said all the veterans honoured had made huge sacrifices for today’s generation to enjoy freedom.

Many were now out of uniform, but continued to serve and fight for the success of the country.

Zuma said there were many more unsung heroes in city shops, on the streets and on farms Ä ordinary citizens who had decided to fight apartheid.

Zuma said the sacrifices made by the men and women honoured should not be forgotten.

“People died for it,” he said.

He said it was good to see so many veterans at the parade, some nearly forgotten while the rest of the country enjoyed the freedom they fought for.

Two categories of medals were handed to veterans present at the event or to representatives of their families.

The first was the Military Veterans Decoration in Platinum in Classes one, two and three.

The class one medal recipients were the 10 men who founded MK. They include Albert Luthuli, Oliver Tambo, and former president Nelson Mandela.

They were awarded the medal for distinguishing themselves through courageous leadership, superior morality, self sacrifice, exemplary patriotism and total devotion to the struggle against apartheid.

The class two medal was awarded to 12 members of the national high command of MK and those who served life sentences with them on Robben Island after the Rivonia Trial.

Recipients included Andrew Mlangeni and Dennis Goldberg.

The class three medals were awarded to 40 MK members who were in the first regional command structures of the former military wing.

The recipients included Vuysile Mini, Ronnie Kasrils, Ben Turok, Peter Magano and Caleb Motsabi. - Sapa