The National Orders will be awarded on 30 April 2024.

A number of former Black Consciousness leaders are among those to be honoured by President Cyril Ramaphosa with a national award on Tuesday in recognition of the role they played in the struggle against apartheid.

The orders, initiated by former president Thabo Mbeki and bestowed to the first recipients in December 2002, are the highest awards that the country bestowed on South African citizens and foreign nationals who contributed towards the advancement of democracy and who made a significant impact on improving the lives of South Africans.

They are the Order of Mendi for Bravery, the Order of Ikhamanga, the Order of the Baobab, the Order of Luthuli, the Order of Mapungubwe, and the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo.

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Black Consciousness leaders recognised

Peter Cyril Jones, a former comrade and righthand man of the late Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko, has been recognised for his courageous contribution in mobilising communities across South Africa. Jones passed away in 2023.

According to Chancellor of the National Orders and Presidency director-general, Phindile Baleni, Jones was “one of the leading lights advocating for the Black Consciousness message of self-reliance, pride and self-affirmation for the oppressed people of our land”.

Another Black Consciousness member to be recognised the late Kenneth Hlako Rachidi, the last president of the Black People’s Convention. Rachidi resisted unjust laws that promoted inequality, lived by the ethics of Black Consciousness and pursued activism and vocal opposition to oppression.

Prof Harry Ranwedzi Nengwekhulu, who is still alive, is recognised for having straddled academia and political activism meant to free South Africa and being source of inspiration for many fellow activists and others. He was one of the founders of the South African Students Organisation (SASO).

The late former Sowetan editor, Aggrey Klaaste, is another Black Consciousness stalwart on the list. The Presidency recognised his exceptional contribution to quality journalism and as a reporter exposing the cruelties of apartheid.

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Benjamin Langa is another Black Consciousness leader recognised for his ultimate sacrifice for equality and social justice in South Africa. “He endured unimaginable pain and remained loyal to the cause until the end.  His legacy remains a beacon of light and inspiration to many.”

Also recognised posthumously are former young Eastern Cape activists Tobsy Madaka and Siphiwo Mthimkhulu, who both died at the hands of apartheid security forces. Madaka died when the vehicle he was travelling in in Port Elizabeth was blown up with an explosive, while Mthimkhulu was poisoned by apartheid security forces in Port Elizabeth now Gqeberha.

Well-known Umkhonto weSizwe member Nokuthula Simelane, who was also brutally murdered by the apartheid system, is recognised with an order for her contribution in the struggle.

Noni Jabavu receives an award for her excellent contribution in the field of journalism. “She had an affinity to history and storytelling through journalism informed and enlightened the nation,” said the Presidency.

One of the foreigners on the list is Huub Bammens from The Netherlands. He is recognised for his contribution to promoting awareness of human rights violations by the South African apartheid government to the world via Radio Freedom. His technical skills were used to build studios for the liberation movement (ANC). Others from abroad who played role in anti-apartheid efforts came from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.


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