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New - Companion Order

Extracted from the JUST STaN website - November 2015

 

 

Order of the Companions of O R TAMBO

 

Q
So. What's this latest honour awarded to Peter Hain then?

A
It's called the Order of the Companions of O. R. Tambo. (Be very, very careful how you type that!) It is a South African honour that was first instituted in December 2002. It is granted by the President of South Africa to foreign citizens who have promoted South African interests and aspirations through co-operation. solidarity, and support.

"Yes, Jacob, I was a Labour MP in Neath for 23 years"

"You deserve a f***ing medal, Peter"
 

Q
Who is or was O.R. Tambo?

A
Oliver Reginald Tambo (27 October 1917 – 24 April 1993) was a South African anti-apartheid politician and revolutionary who served as President of the African National Congress (ANC) from 1967 to 1991. In 1958 he was the Deputy President of the ANC and in 1959 was served with a five-year banning order by the South African government. He was sent abroad by the ANC to mobilise opposition to apartheid. He settled with his family in Muswell Hill, north London, where he lived until 1990.

Q
If the awards have been granted for 14 years why is it only now Peter is getting one?

A
Don't ask me. Probably there are a lot of other deserving cases. Your name has to be put forward by the right people.

Q
Are there various grades of the award?

A
Yes. The order has three classes:

Supreme Companion of O. R. Tambo (Gold), for heads of state and, in special cases, heads of government,
Grand Companion of O. R. Tambo (Silver), for heads of government, ministers of state, supreme court judges, presidents of legislatures, secretaries of state, ambassadors, commanders-in-chief et al.,
Companion of O. R. Tambo (Bronze), for legislators, envoys, senior military officers et al.

Q
So, which one did Peter get?

A
He got the Silver award.

Q
Why didn't it say that in the write up in Wales Online?

A
Your guess is as good as mine. But Peter Hain's Twitter account doesn't tell you either. No matter - it's a prestigious award no matter what colour. Some would say the Gold, Silver or Bronze should not reflect your status in the country in which you live, but what you have done for South Africa, whether you are a President or a Pleb.

Q
What do you actually get as a keepsake?

A

You get a medal and a stick - but the stick is a nice one. 

"The badge of the order is oval, and depicts a symbol similar to that of the Taijitu between two arrowheads, framed by two mole snakes. The symbol represents the meeting of diverse spiritual energies, and the snakes represent solidarity and support. The South African coat of arms is displayed on the reverse.

The ribbon is white, with recurring grey symbols down the centre. All three classes are worn around the neck.

Recipients are also presented with a carved wooden walking stick, which has a serpent wound around the shaft and a spoon-shaped head displaying the badge of the order and the national arms. The walking stick symbolises support and solidarity, and a commitment to stand by the recipient in return".

Q
What other famous people have won it?

Among others:

Olof Palme and Mahatma Gandhi in 2002 - but they got the Gold.
Martin Luther King Jr and former Egyptian President Abdel Nasser got Gold in 2004.
In 2006 the well known Moshoeshoe II of Lesotho and Sobhuza II of Swaziland got the Gold.
In 2008 Harry Belafonte got the Silver.
And Sepp Blatter (FIFA) got awarded a Gold in 2010 and before that  the Executive Committee of FIFA got a Gold in 2004. How these fit into the criteria for awards is beyond me, but I can certainly guess. (In return, presumably, South Africa got the football World Cup in 2010).
Edward Kennedy got Gold in 2012 (posthumously, like many of those awarded).

Q
Hang on a minute. Olof Palme - assassinated. Mahatma Gandhi - assassinated. Martin Luther King Jr - assassinated, Edward Kennedy - two brothers assassinated. Not sure if I'd fancy getting this award.

A
Just unlucky coincidence, I guess. It's a dangerous world out there.

Q
So if ordinary people can get an award why haven't "Ad and Wal" Hain had one each, and what about Neil and Glenys Kinnock? They like collecting Gold and Silver don't they?

A
Whoa - hold your donkeys! It's only been going 14 years. I'm sure when they see Peter wearing his medal and waving his stick about then they'll all want one. Just because you live in Neath and read the Welsh papers, there have been other people involved in defeating apartheid besides the Kinnocks and Hains, you know.

Q
Is Peter Hain the first from the UK to get it because I've never heard of anyone else?

A
He's not the first, though granted, he probably is the first you've heard of. Others have had less publicity about their awards, which they got before Peter Hain had his. For instance
Joel Joffe got the Silver award in 2010. Joffe is perhaps better known as Baron Joffe, a South African-born British lawyer (he was Mandela's lawyer at one time) and former Labour peer in the House of Lords.

Q
Has anyone turned the award down?

A
Yes. On 28 January 2008, New Zealand anti-apartheid activist John Minto created a furore over his letter to former South African President Thabo Mbeki after being nominated for the award, saying that he would refuse, on principle, to accept any award from the ANC. A union organiser in the 1980's, Minto was national co-ordinator of the Halt All Racist Tours movement during the controversial 1981 Springbok rugby tour of New Zealand - when an all-white rugby team representing South Africa was strongly opposed by many New Zealanders.

This is what he thought of present day South Africa, a marked contrast to the recent words of Peter Hain.

http://abahlali.org/node/3248/

Q
But in fairness to Peter Hain he was quoted as saying South Africa was a "fantastic" place to visit - he didn't say "live". He also said “Compared to when we were living there it is like a bright, beautiful summer’s day as against a dark, stormy night".

“That’s not to say that all the country’s problems have been solved. There are still too many people living in poor housing conditions and there are still serious concerns relating to governance and corruption".


A
Fair point. No doubt if you are only visiting the affluent bits, staying in the best hotels and mixing with the South African crachach then you do have a different perspective to the natives. Your perspective would also differ according to whether you are a black or white South African, I'd have thought.

Q
But John Minto refused the award on principle, precisely because of these concerns, while Peter Hain felt "privileged" to accept his. Both anti-apartheid activists in their day but one accepts an award yet the other doesn't. Why is that, do you think?

A
Have you ever read John Minto's blog? He may well be to the left of Jeremy Corbyn. He strikes me as a man who still takes on the Establishment and is a thorn in the flesh of the New Zealand Labour Party whom he criticises strongly for their drift to the Right. I don't think Establishment medals or Honours would mean a lot to him. As for Lord Hain of Neath - make up your own mind.

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