Ceremonial Oration of the Grand Patron of the National Orders, President Thabo Mbeki, 02 December 2003

In the name of the people, we welcome you to this solemn ceremony, convened to admit to the ranks of the Orders of Luthuli and Ikhamanga and the Mendi Decoration men and women who deserve high tribute for what they have done to enrich our lives.

With the inauguration today of our two new Orders and Decoration, the process to reconstitute our system of national symbols will have been completed.

We have convened today at the seat of government, the Union Buildings, to admit some among us to the Order of Luthuli. These are compatriots who have made outstanding contributions to the realisation of our longstanding desire for a free, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist South Africa.

All of them have sacrificed much in their own lives, and yet some, their very lives, so that all our people can enjoy the right to live in a society free of oppression, racism and bigotry. All of them have been standard bearers for freedom who have blessed us with the gift of liberty.

In the best traditions of our struggle for freedom, as represented by the life and spirit of Chief Albert Luthuli, they stand out as the beacons that must guide us forever as we build a society founded on the high ideals of freedom, justice, equality and human solidarity.

We have convened today at the seat of government, the Union Buildings, to admit to the Order of Ikhamanga, our leading cultural workers and sportsmen and women. All of them have contributed to the pride we as a nation feel in our achievements that celebrate our inner African and human soul.

Their achievements are representative of the wealth of human imagination and talent brought forth from our continent, which has, since time immemorial, endowed the planet earth with the things of beauty that are products of human creativity.

We have convened today at the seat of government, the Union Buildings, to award the Mendi Decoration to our brave hearts, those who gave or risked their lives so that others may live. These South Africans, for whom human life is priceless, have reaffirmed the principle borne of struggle, of the right to life.

They have confronted clear and present danger of one kind or another, with full knowledge of the potential harm to themselves, to save human life and limb. They vanquished the natural instinct for self-preservation with the same courage and willingness to sacrifice for the greater good that was demonstrated by the heroes of the SS Mendi. By their deeds, they re-affirmed our philosophy of Ubuntu - we are because of you!

These National Orders and Decoration represent the nobility of human endeavour.

The distinguished South Africans we honour today are fit and proper persons to receive these awards, because they occupy an important place among those of our people who are the handmaidens of our liberty, who represent our creative talent, who manifest the national gift of courage that rises with danger.

For all time, these men and women will be admitted as esteemed members of these Orders, and recipients of the Decoration, subject to the precedence and authority of our National Anthem, our National Flag, and our National Coat of Arms, which represent the highest symbolic repositories of our common nationhood.

We are especially blessed that this ceremony permits us to share a brief encounter with the honoured Members of the National Orders and Decorations, who live.

We are especially privileged that this ceremony brings us into communion with the noble souls of the honoured Members of the National Orders and Decorations, who have departed from the world of the living.

To them all, the living and the dead, on this day, the nation says - bayethe!

On this day, let all citizens and patriots proclaim:

Glory to the Honoured Members of the National Orders and the recipients of Decoration for Bravery!
God bless Africa!
Save her children!
Grant her peace!

Issued by the Presidency
2 December 2003


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