/ 21 September 2007

SA honours sport stars, poets and scientists

Sport stars, poets and scientists shared the spotlight at a National Orders awards ceremony in Pretoria on Friday. President Thabo Mbeki bestowed South Africa’s highest awards on 20 recipients.

Among those from the sporting fraternity receiving the Order of Ikhamanga (silver) were former Springbok rugby captain and manager Morne du Plessis, former head of the National Olympic Committee Sam Ramsamy and swimming star Roland Schoeman.

Former Springbok rugby coach Kitch Christie received the award posthumously.

”As a rugby player used to a team effort, it is very strange to receive an individual award, but I am very thankful that this is happening to me,” Du Plessis said.

It was also a special award because he was recognised with Christie, both having being part of the South African management team behind the Springboks’ 1995 Rugby World Cup triumph.

”I believe our current team has the ability to again win the World Cup, but we will wait and see what happens,” Du Plessis said.

Among the poets and other artists honoured with awards were Afrikaans poet Elisabeth Eybers, whose daughter accepted the Order of Ikhamanga (gold), writer Wally Serote and artist William Kentridge.

”This makes me feel like going back to the drawing board and starting work all over again. I’m very honoured and humbled,” Serote said.

The Order of Mendi for Bravery had only two recipients — the Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) Luthuli detachment, which received the order for embarking on the first-ever armed military operation against white rule in Southern Africa, and a posthumous award to William Mfulwane, who died trying to save the life of a drowning boy.

The Luthuli detachment, comprising 56 members, had planned to traverse the then Rhodesia en route from Zambia to South Africa, but was intercepted. Many were killed or captured.

”It is incredibly special to be nominated with the Luthuli detachment. We have come full circle,” said Order of Ikhamanga (silver) recipient and former MK member Mandla Langa. ”It is a very satisfying feeling.”

Valerie Mizrahi was one of the three scientists receiving the Order of Mapungubwe (silver), for her contribution in the field of biochemistry and molecular technology. ”I’m excited that this will raise the profile of science, sharing the stage with more well-known figures,” she said. — Sapa