Deputy President, Mr Kgalema Motlanthe; 

Chief Justice, Judge Mogoeng Mogoeng; 

Minister of Arts and Culture, Mr Paul Mashatile; 

The distinguished recipients of the National Orders from South Africa and abroad; 

Ministers, Premiers, Deputy Ministers; 

The Director-General, and the Chancellor of the National Orders, Dr Cassius Lubisi; 

The Advisory Council on the National Orders; 

Family members of the recipients of National Orders Awards; 

Distinguished guests; 

Fellow compatriots; 

Ladies and gentlemen;

Good evening,

I greet you all on this historically important day of our national calendar, the South African Freedom Day, in the name of our freedom, peace, democracy, unity, national reconciliation and nation building.

Some of you know the story. Some of you have lived through the story. Some of you have heard the story. Some of you are part of the story. Some of you are the story.

The story of our journey from an apartheid South Africa, to a free, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa is what we are celebrating today.

Those of you who are not familiar with the story of our journey, let me jog your memories.

Because in the words of one of our South African writers Don Mattera, Memory is the Weapon, he writes: "But there is nothing that can be hidden from the mind. Nothing that memory cannot reach or touch or call back. Memory is a weapon. I knew deep down inside of me, in that place where laws and guns cannot reach nor jackboots trample, that there had been no defeat. In another day, another time, we would emerge to reclaim our dignity and our land. It was only a matter of time and Sophiatown would be reborn.” (1). (p. 152).

But, Don Mattera was not just talking about the forced removals of the people of Sophiatown, he was also reflecting on the general struggle going on in South Africa at the time, and the hope and determination of the people to be free.

Whenever we celebrate Freedom Day we are reminded about such instances of injustice, and our historical past - that not so long ago we had no freedom, no peace and no justice to celebrate.

We are reminded that the freedom that we celebrate today, was not free, it came at huge personal cost and a price not possible to repay.

Many people who dedicated their lives in the struggle for a free, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa, cannot be with us today.

We remember many who made sacrifices beyond measure and dedicated their lives so that we can enjoy our freedom today.

We celebrate, cherish and honour the memory of our Freedom Day, April 27th 1994 as a culmination of many years of people`s struggles to liberate themselves, both nationally and internationally.

It is a day that represents peace, unity, and the restoration of human dignity of all South Africans, in doing so we want to ensure that our people never take our freedom for granted.

As part of our Freedom Day celebrations we introduced the National Orders Awards ceremony as a way of honouring all those who played a prominent role towards the attainment of our freedom.

Our government since 2010 consciously made a decision to hold the National Orders Awards Ceremony on National Freedom Day in order to align and link them with our Freedom Day celebrations, and properly honour all those who have made sacrifices and a meaningful contribution to our freedom, at national as well as on the international level.

It is now part of our national calendar to pay homage to that rare breed of distinguished people, locally or globally who made sacrifices and immense contributions in the attainment of our freedom.

We honour and celebrate South Africans and citizens of the world, who through their acts of gallantry and selflessness not only displayed the benevolent tradition of Ubuntu but made positive contributions in the development of our country.

We pay special tribute particularly to members from the international community who are being honoured today, who decided to join our struggle and make it their own, as they felt that freedom was a universal right that needed to be enjoyed by all people including Black South Africans regardless of their skin colour.

This is a befitting conclusion to a momentous day such as the Freedom Day, to which some of the people who will be honoured tonight contributed so immensely.

Over the past eleven (11) years in which the National Orders have been in existence we have honoured South Africans and people of different countries across the globe, with the highest award to be afforded by our country for their astonishing acts.

These acts have contributed in creating a better life for all, and contributed to nation building, common nationhood and helped us in consolidating our eighteen (18) year old democratic dispensation. This year is no exception.

Today we are bestowing honours upon all deserving people and patriotic South Africans, as well as our international friends and compatriots as an important reminder of the history of this country, and its relationship with the international community which waged relentless struggles against apartheid.

We are honouring all who made a very important contribution to this country and continue to make us proud to be South Africans by making history in their diverse avenues.

Today we are recognizing a broad range of people who have made contributions in different fields and have thus become ambassadors of a free, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa of which we are all proud of.

We have among us those who have performed excellently, in projecting our country as a human rights respecting country.

We are a new democracy yet we have highly respected people in the field of international law who inspire our people to perform well in whatever field they are in.

We are celebrating people, who in the definitive show of selflessness and love risked and lost their lives to save others.

We have among our recipients people who have dedicated their lives to promoting awareness around issues of mental health and mental care, women`s empowerment and community development.

We pay respect to those who have a played a critical role in dealing with crime and led some complex investigations on solving politically motivated crimes, thus contributing immensely in the creation of a stable and peaceful society.

People in uniform, our police, the army, nurses and teachers are not always celebrated in our country for the role they play while they are core in building a prosperous society.

People in music, literature, journalism, scholars, writing and theatre, sports, the arts and sciences are not usually celebrated in fostering a new nation, a new culture and a society united in its diversity.

Today we also honour and award those individuals who have excelled in fields that are less known and less celebrated including aviation, piloting, entrepreneurship, as well as academic fields like research in science and engineering.

Ladies and gentlemen;

It is no coincidence that the National Orders Ceremony is convened on Freedom Day, as it was on this day 18 years ago where history was made, when government was taken from the hands of the oppressors and given to people.

This day marks one of the most important aspects of our democracy and our sacred freedom.

Our National Orders this year also take place within the context of celebrating the ANC centenary celebrations, a major global milestone in the people`s struggle to achieve freedom.

We honour all those who were in the forefront of our struggles, who through their political activism, working class leadership guided and inspired our people to be where they are today.

We honour and pay tribute to all those gallant fighters who were part of that historic foundation and all those who successfully led the people`s struggles to its ultimate destination.

It is indeed due to their collective leadership that we have a Constitution which is founded on the principles of unity in diversity today, and South Africa continues to be a shining example within the community of nations globally. 

Ladies and gentlemen;

We salute and congratulate each and every one of you being honoured with our highest honours in the country, the National Orders, you are indeed an inspiration to us all.

South Africa is proud of you.

Under the powers vested in me by Section 84 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa 1996, I now confer the Order of Mendi for Bravery, the Order of Ikhamanga, the Order of Baobab, the Order of Luthuli, the Order of Mapungubwe and the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo.

The recipients shall henceforth be honoured as Esteemed Members of the Orders.

The people of South Africa salute them all.

I thank you.