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NATIONAL ORDERS

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National Orders

   
- The Order of Mendi for Bravery Recipients
- The Order of the Baobab Recipients
- The Order of Ikhamanga Recipients
- The Order of Luthuli Recipients
- The Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo Recipients
- The Order of Mapungubwe Recipients
 
 

History

The birth of a new non-racial and non-sexist democracy in South Africa necessitated a critical review of the system of National Orders. The previous system consisted of one Decoration and four Orders whose symbolic aesthetic was representative of the past.

Seeking to move away from the past, in May 1998, the newly-instituted President's Advisory Council on National Orders was given the task and responsibility to review the system of National Orders and awards. To implement the task, a technical committee was constituted which embarked on an extensive and inclusive research process that involved public consultations, interviews with stakeholders on a national scale, group discussions focusing on alternative systems, the commissioning of historical research and the gathering of jewellery and medal designers to design new medals through a design brief.

As part of this process, the then Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology in co-operation with the Government Communication and Information System investigated further symbols and symbolism in an attempt to capture the essence of a new aesthetic that will reflect the spirit of a new country. A panel of academics and specialists versed in indigenous symbols and symbolism was asked to identify key factors and elements that denote the collective and inclusive history and experience of Africa with South Africa as the main point of reference. The collective outcome of this process resulted in the commissioning and ultimate design of the new National Orders.

Context

South Africa has taken many strides away from its past of exclusion and discrimination on the basis of sex, colour and creed. The country has been steadily moving forward in a direction that reasserts our humanity. In this march towards humanity, a new culture of human rights and a respect for the dignity of the human spirit have become characteristics of South Africa.

One of the symbolic moments of the exodus from the past was the raising of the new flag in 1994. This moment aptly affirmed the pride and dignity of an unfolding country and a celebration of humanity. Another was the unveiling of a new Coat of Arms on 27 April 2000 that embraced the collective historical essence of the people of the country. In so doing, a new aesthetic that takes consideration of Africa and her symbols became part of the new culture that informs a South African rebirth.

The new National Orders have been conceived in the spirit of that rebirth.

 

 

The Order of Mendi for Bravery

Mendi

On 21 February 1917, the ship SS Mendi sank in the cold waters of the English Channel near the Isle of Wight, after being struck by another ship in an unfortunate naval accident. On board were more than 600 Black South African volunteer soldiers en route to France to assist in the Allied war effort during the First World War.

The soldiers, and their fellow White officers, having all assembled on deck of the badly listing ship and realizing their imminent death because the portside lifeboats had been rendered unusable, began to sing and perform a traditional death dance. Legend has it that they bravely resigned themselves to their fate and continued to sing before the vessel plunged to the seabed.

Awards of the Order of the Mendi Decoration for Bravery are made to South Africans who have performed acts of bravery. The act of bravery may have occurred anywhere in the world. This order is awarded in gold for exceptional acts of bravery in which awardees would have placed their lives in great danger or may have lost their lives in their efforts to save lives or property; in silver, for extraordinary acts of bravery through which recipients' lives were placed in great danger while saving or trying to rescue persons or property; and in bronze for outstanding acts of bravery thought which their lives endangered while saving or trying to rescue persons or property.

The Decoration is awarded to South African citizens who have performed an extraordinary act of bravery that placed their lives in great danger, or who lost their own lives including in trying to save the life of another person, or by saving property, in or outside the Republic of South Africa.

Organisation

This Order can be awarded in three categories:

  • Category 1 = Gold
  • Category 2 = Silver
  • Category 3 = Bronze.

Symbolism/design elements


Central motif/symbolism

The shield, made from animal hide, particularly cattle, is processed and woven into an oval product of a very rigid surface and finished off with a wooden handle. The knobkierrie and the spear complement the shield, which is given to visitors who come into our country from all over the world as a symbolic gesture of goodwill.

Elements

The shield

  1. The SS Mendi - represents the courage of many black South African soldiers and their fellow white officers who drowned aboard the SS Mendi. The ship sank after being struck and almost cut in half by the SS Darro in the cold waters of the English Channel near the Isle of Wight on 21 February 1917 . They were on their way to France to assist the British during the First World War.
  2. The blue crane - the flight of the blue crane in the ocean skies above the SS Mendi symbolises the souls of the drowned brave soldiers. The blue crane's feathers were traditionally conferred to adorn brave warriors during colonial wars.
  3. The green emerald - the core from which the three pointers emerge represents the way ahead in rendering assistance to those in need during natural disasters and other extreme difficulties that take place from time to time around the globe.

The holding shape

  1. Lion - as a symbol of beauty, power and bravery, it is represented by its spoors around the edges of the holding shape. This indicates border patrols, within and beyond our country, by dedicated and brave South Africans. The three geographical pointers are represented by the integration of the flowers of the bitter aloe, an indigenous South African plant symbolic of resilience, survival and medicinal value.
  2. Knobkierie and spear - complement the shield as symbols of defence and honour.


Neck badge Lapel rosette Miniature
 

 

The Order of the Baobab

This Order is awarded to South African citizens for distinguished service. The service awarded is well above and beyond the ordinary call of duty. It is an award for exceptional and distinguished contributions in the following categories:

  • Business and the economy
  • Science, medicine and technological innovation
  • Community service.

Organisation

This Order can be awarded in three classes:

  • Class 1 = Supreme Counsellor of the Order of the Baobab (Gold)
  • Class 2 = Grand Counsellor of the Order of the Baobab (Silver)
  • Class 3 = Counsellor of the Order of the Baobab (Bronze).

Symbolism/design elements


Central motif/symbolism

This Order finds its inspiration from the Baobab which is a tropical African tree. The origins of the name Baobab is part of the many rich legends and mysteries of Africa . It has probably been more often described than any other tree in Africa for, among other things, its vitality, and magical and symbolic value to indigenous people. The endurance and tolerance shown by the tree in growing old is reflective of the sustained and exceptional service to South Africa that is awarded by this Order. Similarly, the service rendered still ensures the enduring and growing status of South Africa .

The Baobab is an important element in many African agro forestry systems. It provides bark for cloth and rope, fruits for food and fuel, and many other useful products. The familiar, broad and strong protruding root system supports a massive tree commonly known as a place for many important meetings and protection in traditional African societies.

Elements
  1. Baobab (Baobab or Adonsonia Digitata)- known for its roots and longevity. Provides not only shade and a place for meetings, but is also central in supporting the communities it is found in.
  2. Nonagon shape- a nine-sided polygon background symbolising the many different areas of possible contribution and service to building a prosperous and advancing nation. The icon is also symbolic of the nine provinces of our country.
  3. Exterior organic holding shape- Baobab bark texture finish; the bark is commonly used for the making of mats and hats.

Neck badge Miniature Lapel rosette
 

 

The Order of Ikhamanga

Ikhamanga

The beautiful and unique ikhamanga flower (more commonly known as the strelitzia, crane or bird of paradise flower) has become one of the world's most well-known flowers. Perhaps less known is the fact that it is indigenous to South African where it grows wild in the Eastern Cape.

The Order of Ikhamanga is awarded to South African citizens who have excelled in the fields of arts, culture, literature, music, journalism or sport. This award is made in three categories. For exceptional achievement the Order is awarded in gold It is awarded in sliver for excellent achievement, and in bronze for outstanding achievement.

This Order is awarded to South African citizens who have excelled in the fields of arts, culture, literature, music, journalism and sport.

Organisation

This Order can be awarded in three categories:

  • Category 1 = Gold
  • Category 2 = Silver
  • Category 3 = Bronze.

Symbolism/design elements

 
Central motif/symbolism

The Ikhamanga (Strelitzia) plant symbolises the unique beauty of achievements by men and women who carry colourful South African aloft in the fields of creativity, arts, culture, music, journalism and sport.

Elements
  1. Lydenburg Heads– (the arts) – the terracotta head represents visual, creative arts, performance and drama.
  2. African drum– relevant to all cultures and representative of the arts, it symbolises excellent talent in communication and cultural celebration.
  3. Crest/sun– the crown symbolises a feathered head-dress worn by performers, royalty and respected people. The rays of the sun, which denote power, glory, illumination and vitality, represent the achievements of performers in various fields.
  4. Inner ovals or borders– (glorification in sport) – they symbolise the acknowledgement of exceptional achievements in various sporting and cultural activities
  5. Roads – (achievement and success) – portray all roads leading to Africa and the Cradle of Humankind, which emphasises the long, hard road to achievement, excellence and success.

Neck badge Miniature Lapel rosette
 

 

The Order of Luthuli

The Order is awarded to South Africans who have made a meaningful contribution to the struggle for democracy, human rights, nation-building, justice and peace, and conflict resolution.

Organisation

This Order can be awarded in three categories:

  • Category 1 = Gold
  • Category 2 = Silver
  • Category 3 = Bronze

Symbolism/design elements


Central motif/symbolism

The triangular flint stone represents a basic tool of survival used by prehistoric ancestors to skin animals, construct shelters and cut strips of skin to make clothes.

It symbolises the vision of the late Chief Albert Luthuli - the legendary liberation struggle leader and first African recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1961 - for African people to participate fully in the socio-economic and political development of South Africa .

Elements

Flint stone

  1. Isandlwana Hill - depicts peace and tranquillity after the Battle of Isandlwana in 1879.
  2. The South African Flag - represents the dawn of freedom and democracy.
  3. Technology - emphasises the development of high-tech products.

African Clay Pot

  1. Two horns - espouse his vision for a democratic, non-racial and non-sexist South Africa .
  2. The leopard pattern - represents Chief Luthuli’s trademark headgear.
  3. Beads - decoration symbolises the beauty of Africa and the African bull represents the empowerment and prosperity of the African people.

Neck badge Miniature Lapel rosette
 

 

The Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo

O.R. Tambo

The late Oliver Reginald Tambo played a central role in the freedom of struggle against Apartheid, and remains a true icon of our liberation history.

From an early age, Tambo rose through the ranks of the liberation movement. He was a founder member of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) in 1944. In 1948, he was elected President of the Transvaal ANCYL and national vice-president of the ANCYL in 1949. In 1955, when the then Secretary General, the late Walter Sisulu, was banned in terms of the Suppression of Communism Act, it was Tambo who was appointed to fill this post. In 1958, Tambo was elected to the post of Deputy President of the ANC. Finally, in 1967, after the death of ANC President General Chief Albert Luthuli, Tambo was appointed acting President of the ANC, an appointment confirmed by the Morogoro Conference in 1969. He held this position until 1991 when he had to relinquish it due to ill health.

Tambo dedicated his life to overthrowing the Apartheid regime by mobilising fellow citizens to resist the Apartheid Government and relentlessly mobilizing world opinion against the odious Apartheid ideology and regime.

Tambo was known in the liberation movement for his gentle character and compassionate qualities. His benevolence and personal concern for the plight of freedom fighters and their conditions in the field endeared him to thousands of liberation fighters.

The Order of the Companions of O R Tambo is awarded in three categories to eminent foreign nationals and other foreign dignitaries for friendship shown to South Africa. It therefore concerned primarily with matters of peace, co-operation, international solidarity and support and is integral to the execution of South Africa's international and multilateral relations. The Supreme Companion of O R Tambo in gold, is awarded to those who have actively promoted the interests and aspirations of South Africa through excellent co-operation and active expression of solidarity and support. The Grand Companion of O R Tambo in silver is awarded to those who have actively promoted the interests and aspirations of South Africa through outstanding co-operation, solidarity and support. The Companion of O R Tambo in bronze is awarded to those who have actively promoted the interests and aspirations of the Republic through co-operation, solidarity and support.

This Order is awarded to foreign nationals (Heads of State and Government) and other foreign dignitaries. It is awarded for friendship shown to South Africa . It is therefore an order of peace, co-operation and active expression of solidarity and support. The Order constitutes an essential pillar of international and multilateral relations.

Organisation

This Order can be awarded in three classes:

  • Class 1 = Supreme Companion of OR Tambo (Gold)
  • Class 2 = Grand Companion of OR Tambo (Silver)
  • Class 3 = Companion of OR Tambo (Bronze).

All the awards include four elements: a walking stick, a neck badge, a miniature and a lapel rosette. The last Order consists of three elements: a neck badge, a miniature and a lapel rosette.

Symbolism/design elements


Central motif/symbolism

OR Tambo: OR Tambo played a major role in the growth and development of the international movement of solidarity against racism and Apartheid. Among others, he established the first Missions of the liberation movement in Egypt , Morocco , Ghana and London . This was a modest start to bring the friends of South Africa together throughout the world in a continuous and sustained mobilisation of the international community in support of a free and democratic South Africa and against the evils of racism, oppression and Apartheid.

Majola (mole snake): The snake that visits babies when they are born. It never harms the baby or members of the family and the only friendly way to drive it away is for the mother to squirt it with her own breast milk. It visits the baby to prepare it for a successful and safe adult life. It comes as a friend and protector. The friendship it expresses is not anchored in a benign demonstration of goodwill but rather an active expression of solidarity and striving to support and encourage long-term success of the young and growing members of the human race. The snake lives on in African mythology because of a classical narrative called The wrath of the ancestors by AC Jordan. This narrative subverts the conventional notion of a snake as merely venomous and introduces a broader African interpretation that understands the serpent as a friend and a member of a dynamic ecology.

Elements

1. Walking stick- carved out of dark, indigenous wood it is a symbol of appreciation for the support and solidarity shown, and similarly a commitment to support and stand by the recipient in return.

1. Majola- the watchful eye with hooks at both the top and bottom symbolises recognition for the active expression of solidarity and support for South Africa .

2. A tomoye of four sections- is inspired by the universal ying and yang that speak of a meeting point for diverse spiritual energies.

Walking stic

Neck badge

Miniature

Lapel rosette

 

 

The Order of Mapungubwe

Mapungubwe

A millennium ago, the amazing Kingdom of Mapungubwe existed in the northern corner of South Africa. It comprised a sophisticated state system, with highly developed agriculture, mining, and metallurgy industries. The Kingdom traded with countries as far afield as China. According the Archaeology Department at the University of the Witwatersrand, Mapungubwe represented 'the most complex society in Southern Africa'. It is reputed to be the origin of the people, culture and foundation for the achievements of Great Zimbabwe.

Mapungubwe Hill is a sandstone hill located on a mudstone deposit in the northern part of the Limpopo province, known for its arid subtropical climate and erratic summer rains. Out of this seeming barrenness, like an oasis in the desert, there blossomed the complex and highly developed state and culture, centred around a thriving town built on and around Mapungubwe Hill, which served as the capital of the ancient Mapungubwe Kingdom.

The Order of Mapungubwe is awarded to South African citizens for achievements that have impacted internationally and served the interests of the Republic of South Africa. The first and highest category of this Order is awarded in platinum for unique and exceptional achievement; which the second-highest category is gold. The third category in this order is sliver, awarded for excellent achievement; and the fourth is bronze for outstanding achievement.

This Order is awarded to South African citizens for excellence and exceptional achievement.

Organisation

This Order can be awarded in three Classes:

  • Class 1 = The Platinum Order of Mapungubwe (Platinum)
  • Class 2 = The Gold Order of Mapungubwe (Gold)
  • Class 3 = The Bronze Order of Mapungubwe (Bronze).

Symbolism / Design Elements


Central Motif / Symbolism

Mapungubwe: The Mapungubwe Kingdom existed in the northern corner of our country a millennium ago. The Kingdom had a sophisticated state system and developed agriculture. It also developed a mining and metallurgy industry. The Kingdom traded with countries as far as China . During its time, it represented excellence of human thought and ingenuity.

Elements
  1. Four corners of the globe - symbolise the achievements of South Africans all over the world.
  2. Rising sun - the new dawn emerging from Africa.
  3. Mapungubwe Hill - forms the background, a sandstone hill on mudstone deposit in an arid subtropical area with erratic summer rains. Excavations showed that excellence grew out of the most difficult natural circumstances.
  4. Mapungubwe rhino - the now most well-known artefact found in a grave at the excavation site, a gold-plated figurine formed around a soft core, probably sculpted wood, testimony to the excellence of human resourcefulness present in the Kingdom.
  5. Mapungubwe scepter - emerging from the gold melting pot on either side; another of the artefacts found in a grave at the excavation site.
  6. Decorated gold melting pot - the basic symmetric forms on the overflowing gold melting pot symbolise the abundance of excellence, science and creativity, testimony to the earliest achievements in metallurgy.
  7. Furnace - the purifying and life-sustaining properties of fire, employed since the Iron Age, to advance development and excellence in societies and communities.

Neck badge Miniature Lapel rosette
 

 

 

     
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