President Jacob Zuma, the Grand Patron of the National Orders, will today, 28 April 2017, bestow the 2017 National Orders Awards on distinguished local citizens and eminent foreign nationals who have played a significant role towards building a free democratic South Africa and improving the lives of South Africans in various ways.

The National Orders are the highest awards that South Africa bestows, through the President of the Republic upon citizens and members of the international community who have contributed meaningfully towards making the country a free democratic and successful nation, united in its diversity.

During the ceremony, President Zuma will bestow the Order of Ikhamanga, the Order of the Baobab, the Order of Luthuli, and the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo to the following deserving recipients.



Mr Wayde van Niekerk: For his exceptional contribution to the sporting field of track running. His performance against all odds broke standing records of international legends and brought immense national pride.  

Mr Wayde van Niekerk was born on 15 July 1992 in Cape Town. He attended Bellville Primary and Grey College before studying marketing at the University of the Free State. Van Niekerk is a track and field sprinter who has brought national pride to this country. He competes in the 200 and 400 metres respectively. He is the current world record holder, world   and Olympic champion in the 400m. He is also the first and only person in history to run 100m in less than 10 seconds, 200m in 20 seconds, and 400m in 44 seconds.

He made his international debut at the 2010 World Junior Championships in Athletics, where he attained fourth position in the 200m, with a personal best time of 21.02 seconds. He also ran in the 4×100m relay heats with the national team, alongside Gideon Trotter.  His breakthrough to senior level came at the age of 18 at the 2011 South African Athletics Championships, where he won the 200m title in a new personal record of 20.57 seconds. He competed   at the 2011 African Junior Athletics Championships, but did not make the final. He ran sparingly in 2012, but began to show a talent for the 400m, setting a best of 46.43 seconds Van Niekerk was a silver medalist in the 400 m at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and took bronze in the 4×400 m relay at the 2013 Summer Universiade. He also represented South Africa at the 2013 and 2015 Athletics World Championships respectively. At the 2015 World Championships, he won the gold medal in the 400 m. In the 2016 Olympic Games Men's 400 m, at the age of 24 years he won the gold medal with a world record time of 43.03 seconds, beating the   43.18 seconds record set by Michael Johnson during the 1999 World Championships in Athletics in Seville, Spain.



Mr Matthew Brittain: For his excellent contribution to the field of water sport and winning gold for South Africa in the 2012 Olympic Games. His strong determination is an inspiration to the young people of South Africa.

Mr Matthew Brittain is a South African rower. He won a gold medal in the men's lightweight coxless four event at the 2012 Summer Olympics. On 2 August 2012, Brittain and his teammates Sizwe Ndlovu, James Thompson and John Smith shocked the world by winning gold for South Africa at the 2012 London Olympics. It was a historic moment for the South African men’s lightweight rowing team and for the sport – one that Brittain will certainly never forget Brittain grew up in Johannesburg exposed to sports from a very young age. His father, Daniel Brittain was a serious rower. Inspired from an early age watching Josiah Thugwane’s amazing feat of winning a gold medal for South Africa in Atlanta in 1996, Brittain wanted to be part of the Olympics. He fell in love with rowing after trying different sports, taking one step at a time.

However, Brittain’s career has been adversely affected by recurring back injuries. In 2010 he had a back surgery, but recovered remarkably to go on and win in the 2012 Olympics in London. However, his back problem recurred in 2013, forcing him to eventually take decision to retire.    Sports, however, remains closest to Brittain’s heart and he is now fulfilling this passion through his events company focussing on sponsorship   for the rowing team and raising the profile of the sport in the country. ( to be continued )