South African Medals Website
South Africa, and the former homelands and South West Africa
Arthur Radburn Online since 2001
Civil orders, decorations and medals
June 2009 / July 2014
Republic of South Africa : 2002-
The 'old' South African civil honours were retained until December 2002, when the current series was introduced. The President is ex officio patron of all the orders, and is entitled to wear the insignia of the highest class of each during his term of office.
A feature of the new national orders is that they are sometimes awarded collectively to organisations and groups as well as to individuals. The Order of Mendi for Bravery was awarded in 2003 to the military units which carried out the 1991 Oceanos sea rescue and the 2000 Mozambique flood relief operations, the Order of Ikhamanga was awarded in 2004 to the 2010 Soccer World Cup Bid Committee, and the Order of the Baobab was awarded in 2005 to the University of Fort Hare.
Order of Mapungubwe (2002- ) Awarded for achievements in the international arena, in the interest of South Africa. Divided into four categories, i.e. classes:
Insignia: A wedge-shaped badge depicting gold flowing from an upright crucible, topped by an oval cartouche displaying a golden rhinoceros and Mapungubwe hill (obverse). It is worn on a neck ribbon. Designed by Gold Mametja.
Order of Mendi for Bravery (2003- ) Initially (2003-04) called the 'Mendi Decoration for Bravery', being named after a World War I troopship which sank after a collision, with the loss of more than 600 African recruits. Awarded, to both civilians and military personnel, for bravery in saving life or property. There are three categories.
Insignia: An oval medal in the shape of an African shield, depicting a blue crane bird flying above the troopship Mendi, within a frame decorated with lion's pawprints (obverse). The OMBG is worn on a neck ribbon, and the other two classes are worn on the chest. Designed by Gareth Smart.
Order of the Baobab (2002- ) Awarded for service to South Africa in the fields of business and the economy; science, medicine and technological innovation; and community service. Until 2003, also awarded in the fields now covered by the Orders of Luthuli and of Ikhamanga. Divided into three categories:
Insignia: An irregular oblong gold, silver or bronze medal, textured to represent tree bark, and displaying a baobab tree inside a green circlet (obverse). It is worn on a neck ribbon. Designed by Gold Mametja.
Order of Luthuli (2003- ) Awarded for contributions to South Africa in the struggle for democracy; building democracy and human rights; nation-building; justice and peace; and conflict resolution. The order was named after former African National Congress leader Albert Luthuli. Recipients include academics, activists, and retired politicians. Divided into three categories:
Insignia: A triangular medal representing a flintstone, depicting the sun rising over Isandhlwana mountain, the national flag, and a clay pot flanked by cow's horns (obverse). It is worn on a neck ribbon. Designed by Gareth Smart.
Order of Ikhamanga (2003- ) Awarded for achievements in the arts, culture, literature. music. journalism, and sport, in the interest of South Africa. Divided into three categories:
Insignia: A pear-shaped medal depicting a rising sun, two strelitzia (ikhamanga) flowers, a "Lydenburg head", an African drum, and a stylised road (obverse). It is worn on a neck ribbon. Designed by Gareth Smart.
Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo (2002- ) Awarded to foreign citizens only, for service in the mutual promotion of international relations, or promoting South African interests and sharing South African aspirations. The order was named after former African National Congress leader Oliver Tambo. Recipients include Dr Kofi Annan, the late Dr Martin Luther King, and the late Mahatma Gandhi. Divided into three categories:
Insignia: An oval gold, silver or bronze medal, framed by two snakes, displaying a ying-yang symbol (obverse). It is worn on a neck ribbon. Recipients are also given a carved wooden walking stick which has the badge embodied in the head. Designed by Gold Mametja.
Order of South Africa (2014- ) A diplomatic order, to be conferred on foreign heads of state and heads of government, either as an honour or as reciprocation for honours which they have conferred on the President of South Africa. It has one class : gold.
Insignia: A raindrop-shaped badge depicting the secretary bird-and-sunburst crest of the national coat of arms, and the stars of the Southern Cross picked out in diamonds. The ribbon is described as "white raindrops on beige".
Presidential Sports Award (1994- ) Originally (1994-96) called the 'RSA President's Sport Award'. Awarded annually, for outstanding achievements by sportspersons, administrators, coaches, and referees/ umpires. Divided into two classes:
Insignia: A circular medal, displaying the SA coat of arms (obverse) superimposed on a 32-pointed star. It is worn on a neck ribbon.
The Western Cape is the only one of the nine provinces to confer its own honours. They were established by the provincial legislature in May 1999, and were first awarded in 2003. Awards are conferred by the provincial premier.
Western Cape Golden Cross (1999- ) For an exceptional achievement which has served the interest of the province.
Insignia: A gold convex cross displaying four disa flowers (obverse) and the provincial coat of arms (reverse). It is worn on a neck ribbon.
Order of the Disa (1999- ) For meritorious service in the interest of the province. There are three classes:
Insignia: A gold (commander and officer) or silver (member) cross of disa flowers, displaying the provincial coat of arms on the reverse. The commander's badge is worn around the neck, and the others are worn on the chest.