South African Medals Website
South Africa, and the former homelands and South West Africa
Arthur Radburn Online since 2001
Military decorations and medals
June 2009 / November 2017
Liberation armies and military veterans
uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) and the Azanian People's Liberation Army (APLA) were both formed in 1961. Both operated from outside South Africa, and during the 1980s, they waged an armed struggle inside South Africa, which eventually resulted in the country being reconstituted, in April 1994, as a democratic state. APLA and MK members were then incorporated into the new SA National Defence Force.
Neither organisation had decorations or medals while it existed, but in 1996 a dual series of awards was instituted for former members, for services prior to April 1994. They were modeled on the principal SA Defence Force decorations and medals of the time. All display the South African national arms on the reverse.
APLA Gold Star for Bravery (GSB) and MK Star for Bravery in Gold (BSG) For exceptional bravery in great danger (equivalent to the SADF's Honoris Crux Silver).
Insignia: A 5-pointed gold star displaying a gold lion on a centre roundel (obverse); the APLA star is superimposed on another 5-pointed star.
APLA Bravery Star in Silver (BSS) and MK Star for Bravery in Silver (SBS) For bravery (equivalent to the SADF's Honoris Crux).
Insignia: Same designs as the GSB and BSG, but in silver.
APLA Star for Conspicuous Leadership (SCL) and MK Conspicuous Leadership Star (CLS) For distinguished conduct and exceptional combat leadership (equivalent to the SADF's Pro Virtute Decoration and Pro Virtute Medal).
Insignia: Same designs as the GSB and BSG, but in bronze.
APLA Gold Decoration for Merit (GDM) and MK Decoration for Merit in Gold (DMG) For outstanding service and utmost devotion to duty (equivalent to the SADF's Southern Cross Decoration and Pro Merito Decoration).
Insignia: A white-enamelled gold cross with notched edges, displaying the APLA or MK emblem on a blue centre roundel (obverse).
APLA Silver Medal for Merit (SMM) and MK Merit Medal in Silver (MMS) For exceptionally meritorious service and particular devotion to duty (equivalent to the SADF's Southern Cross Medal and Pro Merito Medal).
Insignia: A pentagonal silver medal, displaying the APLA or MK emblem on a blue roundel surrounded by rays (obverse).
APLA Bronze Medal for Merit (BMM) and MK Merit Medal in Bronze (MMB) For service of a high order (equivalent to the SADF's Military Merit Medal).
Insignia: A bronze circular medal, with an engrailed edge, displaying the APLA or MK emblem surrounded by nine protea flowers (obverse).
Operational Medal for Southern Africa Awarded to both MK and APLA veterans, for operational service outside South Africa (equivalent to the SADF's Southern Africa Medal).
Insignia: A circular silver medal, displaying a baobab tree inside a hexagonal frame of chain (obverse).
South Africa Service Medal Awarded to both MK and APLA veterans, for operational service inside South Africa (equivalent to the SADF's General Service Medal).
Insignia: A circular silver medal, displaying crossed knobkieries on an African shield above a map of South Africa (obverse).
APLA Service Medal and MK Service Medal For exemplary service. Each was awarded cumulatively in three classes: Bronze for 10 years service, Silver for 20 years, and Gold for 30 years.
Insignia: An oval medal displaying the APLA or MK emblem (obverse).
A series of decorations and medals was instituted for military veterans in 2012. To date, they appear to have been awarded only to uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) veterans. How they relate to the decorations for the former liberation armies is unclear.
Military Veterans Decoration in Platinum For distinguished leadership. Awarded in three classes :
Military Veterans Medal for Bravery in Gold For outstanding acts of valour in battle, and ensuring the success of missions under perilous conditions.
Military Veterans Medal for Merit in Gold For exceptional service beyond the call of duty, and exemplary conscientious leadership.
Sabotage Campaign Medal For veterans of MK's sabotage campaign which began in 1961.
Luthuli Detachment Medal For veterans of MK's Luthuli Detachment, which fought in Rhodesia in the 1960s.
Insignia: An octagonal gold-coloured medal displaying a bust of Chief Albert Luthuli surrounded by a wreath of leaves (obverse).