What do boxer Gerrie Coetzee, author Bessie Head and Pan Africanist Congress activist Jeff Masemola have in common?

Or Hestrie Cloete, Ken Gampu and Willie Esterhuyse?

They are all South Africans who are being honoured on Tuesday under the new system of national orders that seeks to correct past history while building a new nation.

The director-general in the President's Office, Frank Chikane, who is also the Chancellor of National Orders, says comparing the list of honours from 1987 to 1994 to that of the past 10 years, a story of exclusion in honouring South African citizens is evident.

"We are trying to correct that. There are (now) elements of reparation, restoration and building up a new society. Hence there are many posthumous awards, some dating back to the 19th century," Chikane said.

He said it took over a year to design the last set of honours. These are:

  • The Order of Luthuli which replaces the abolished Star of South Africa;

  • The Order of Ikhamanga which is a new order; and

  • The Mendi Decoration for Bravery which replaces the Wolraad Woltemade award.

    Chikane said the orders were not exactly comparable with the old ones because they had been "completely reconceptualised".

    The Order of Luthuli recognises outstanding contribution to nation building, the Order of Ikhamanga is awarded for excellence in the arts and sports, while the Mendi Decoration is for outstanding bravery.

    The honours area awarded in gold, silver and bronze.

    Yvonne Muthien, chairperson of the President's Advisory Council on National Orders, said this was the last set of new orders after unveiling the Orders of Mapungubwe and Baobab last year.

    The former recognises exceptional achievement on the international stage by South Africans and the latter honours exceptional achievement in business, community service and science.

    Any person or groups can nominate individuals and the council prepares a shortlist for the President's consideration.

    They usually have a long list of nominees, and some people would have to stand over for the next ceremony. President Mbeki is conferring awards and decorations on 41 recipients and two rescue units this morning. The awards will take place once a year.

    Those who share the Luthuli order in gold include Charlotte Maxeke, who was the first African woman from South Africa to be awarded a BSc degree. She led a delegation to then Prime Minister Louis Botha to protest against the implementation of pass laws for women.

    South Africa's first foreign minister under the African National Congress government, Alfred Nzo, and leader of Sactu, a forerunner of Cosatu, will also be awarded the order in gold. Masemola, Black Sash activist Mary Burton, Mthuli Ka Shezi, a Black People's Convention activist, and Afrikaner academic Willie Esterhuyse will receive the award in silver.

    The award for bravery in gold goes to Basil February who fought off the Southern Rhodesian army, giving his Umkhonto weSizwe comrades an opportunity to escape - but he was killed in the process.

    The members of the South African National Defence Force Unit who rescued Mozambicans from the flood, including baby Rosita, will also be awarded for bravery in gold.

    Leonard Slabbert, who saved about eight Cosatu members whose bus plunged into the Saulspoort Dam in the Free State on Workers Day, killing 61 of them, will receive the silver decoration for bravery.

    He will be joined by Sam Nkomo, a game ranger from the North West who fought off an angry elephant with a stick, protecting two tourists. He also put his own body in the path of seven other elephants approaching them and managed to drive them away.

    Bessie Head will be awarded the order of Ikhamanga in gold posthumously for her literary achievements while in exile in Botswana where she died. She is joined by Princess Magogo ka Dinizulu (Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi's mother) for her contribution to traditional music, and golfer Gary Player. The silver award will go to high jumper Hestrie Cloete, film-maker Lionell Ngakane who died two weeks ago, actor Ken Gampu and athlete Sydney Maree. Boxer Coetzee will receive the award in bronze.

  • Other recipients of awards are:

    The Order of Luthuli:

    Gold

    Patrick Molaoa (posthumous)

    Silver

    Cissie Gool (posthumous), Archie Gumede (posthumous), Matthew Goniwe (posthumous), Winnie Kgware, Phyllis Naidoo, Albert Nolan

    Bronze

    Lekgau M Mathabathe (posthumous), Jasmat Nanabhai

    The Order of Ikhamanga:

    Gold

    Dumile Feni (posthumous), Alex la Guma (post-

    humous), Kalamazoo Mokone, Olive Schreiner (post-

    humous), Gerald Sekoto (posthumous), Cecil Skotness

    Silver

    Basil D'Oliviera, Penny Heyns, Eric Majola (posthumous), Gladys Mngudlandlu (posthumous), Jacob Ntuli, Zanele Situ

    Bronze

    Abed Goolam

    The Mendi Decoration for Bravery:

    Gold

    Linda Jabane (posthumous)

    Silver

    Members of the former South African National Defence Force Oceanos Rescue Operations Unit.