The pas­sion of heroic sac­ri­fice

The na­tional or­ders serve to hon­our ac­tivism, in­spire or­di­nary cit­i­zens and re­mind us that much re­mains to be done, writes

CityPress - - News -

When Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma read out the list of re­cip­i­ents for the 2016 na­tional or­ders, names were trans­formed into hu­man sto­ries of hero­ism and un­told sac­ri­fice.

In to­tal, 32 re­cip­i­ents from South Africa and abroad were awarded for their ex­cep­tional ser­vice to hu­man­ity.

Al­though each of the 32 is unique in their own way, the pas­sion to work to­wards a bet­ter coun­try and world runs through all of them. They are ir­refutable proof that ac­tivism works when it is linked to a just cause.

But be­yond that, they have shown that true ac­tivism amounts to more than just a cam­paign on so­cial me­dia, a pe­ti­tion or a catchy hash­tag.

At its core, ac­tivism means plac­ing the needs of others first and get­ting your hands dirty – and it of­ten de­mands great per­sonal sac­ri­fice.

Ac­tivists are en­gaged in their cause; they work within com­mu­ni­ties and never stop, no mat­ter the obstacles. Our his­tory abounds with such peo­ple and their in­spir­ing sto­ries.

I have no doubt that, in time, these dis­tin­guished peo­ple will join the le­gion of he­roes and hero­ines from our na­tion and be­yond who dared to stand up and make a dif­fer­ence, and will in­spire fu­ture gen­er­a­tions to do the same.

Our na­tional or­ders cel­e­brate the in­clu­sive­ness and di­ver­sity of a demo­cratic South Africa and em­body all that is good about our coun­try.

These re­cip­i­ents stand as a re­minder that or­di­nary peo­ple can rise to be­come lead­ers and make ex­tra­or­di­nary con­tri­bu­tions. I join the na­tion in ap­plaud­ing their ex­cep­tional achieve­ments.

They em­body the spirit of free­dom; they rep­re­sent the best of us and in­clude he­roes from our painful past, as well as cur­rent guardians of science, the arts, busi­ness, so­cial jus­tice, and free­dom and democ­racy.

Dur­ing his ad­dress to those no­table cit­i­zens and for­eign na­tion­als who as­sem­bled in Pre­to­ria on Thurs­day, Pres­i­dent Zuma ex­plained the im­por­tance of or­di­nary men and women work­ing to make the world a bet­ter place.

His words should act as a ral­ly­ing call, a re­minder that we all have a role to play in build­ing our na­tion. It may be a great or mi­nor role, it may be heroic or it may help in en­sur­ing so­cial jus­tice, but ev­ery con­tri­bu­tion counts.

Among this year’s re­cip­i­ents of the Or­der of Mendi were 10 stal­warts of the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle as well as free­dom fighters. This award goes to any South African who has per­formed ex­tra­or­di­nary acts of brav­ery any­where in the world, who put his or her life in dan­ger or ul­ti­mately lost it in try­ing to save the lives of others.

The sto­ries of Hermanus Loots, Ulysses Modise, Joseph Nduli and others are part of the folk­lore from our un­pleas­ant past. They were part of the Luthuli de­tach­ment – named af­ter the ANC’s pres­i­dent-gen­eral, Chief Al­bert Luthuli – spear­head­ing a joint op­er­a­tion by guer­ril­las of the ANC and the Zim­bab­wean African Peo­ple’s Union, who were dis­patched on July 31 1967 to in­fil­trate South Africa.

Sadly, these awards were all made posthu­mously.

Like­wise with the Or­der of Mendi awarded to Sam Ntuli, who paid the ul­ti­mate price for his tire­less work at pro­mot­ing peace in Thokoza on the East Rand dur­ing the hor­rific state-spon­sored vi­o­lence that raged in the 1980s and early 1990s.

To sin­gle out the re­mark­able achieve­ments of all 32 re­cip­i­ents is im­pos­si­ble, but they stand for all to see. Their sto­ries are a re­minder that al­though we have come a long way in trans­form­ing our na­tion, more must still be done. We dare not rest un­til we have built a coun­try where op­por­tu­ni­ties are avail­able for all, and where all South Africans are af­forded a chance to bet­ter their lives.

Gov­ern­ment joins all South Africans in salut­ing the 2016 re­cip­i­ents. We will never for­get their sacri­fices. Lu­bisi is di­rec­tor-gen­eral in the pres­i­dency and

chan­cel­lor of the na­tional or­ders

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