Issue 557 | 13 February 2023
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South Africa has honoured the contribution made by those who have excelled in promoting the interests of the country on an international stage.

“DIRCO [Department of International Relations and Cooperation] is honoured to shine a light on South Africans who have distinguished themselves in promoting our national interests, our talents and values around the world as ambassadors of our country,” said the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, at the Ubuntu Awards ceremony, held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Saturday evening, 11 February 2023.

Minister Pandor said the awards celebrated excellence and were the department’s way of honouring excellence.

“We are so excited to have this thrilling privilege of once again revealing the quality within South Africa to the world. Many are ordinary South Africans, who are honoured here for doing extraordinary things,” Minister Pandor said.

The Minister said the nominees and award recipients had each championed the essence of the meaning of Ubuntu, an ancient African philosophy that speaks to having compassion for others and lending energy to uplifting communities.

“The essence of Ubuntu is a stress on the oneness we share. It reflects a humanist African philosophy that has been decimated and weakened largely by colonialism and sociology economic deprivation. It suggests community as a building block of society.

“Essentially, it asserts that we are all bound together in ways that may be invisible to the eye. We achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others and caring for those around us,” Minister Pandor said.

She urged for cooperation in the many global challenges confronting the different countries of the world.

“These challenges are so immense that they suggest that as leaders and communities, we must do more to actively live and breathe Ubuntu, [and take] action that is framed by justice for all people, and by the practice of fairness and equality, regardless of race, gender or social status.

“As a global community, we must be [enjoined to address] climate change, migration, disease, human trafficking, terrorism and hunger. Our help must uplift communities and not increase their vulnerability,” the Minister said.

“Ubuntu is the common thread in the UN's Sustainable Development Goals because without that level of collaboration we cannot achieve the meaningful change anticipated in the SDGs.

“The rescue efforts in Türkiye and Syria indicate commitment to this joint vision. We commend all those South Africans and global citizens who are showing the spirit of Ubuntu as they offer humanitarian support. We also laud all who are contributing in many different forms of support.

“For us working in the domain of international cooperation and diplomacy, I am pleased to share with South Africans that working with the countries gathered in this room, we are striving to partner in addressing the difficult challenges facing South Africa.

“We need to work together even more to ensure a robust and effective fair rules-based, multilateral approach to global governance, trade, conflict resolution and peacekeeping. This is an agenda South Africa will continue to pursue in all international fora in which we participate, from the UN to G20, BRICS and others. As a region, SADC has been supported by partners in assisting Mozambique to repel terrorism. I hope that we will see decisive progress in Mozambique and DRC this year, working together in the spirit of Ubuntu.

“South Africa is delighted to be chairing BRICS this year. Our chosen theme is: "BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development and Inclusive Multilateralism". Our theme and priorities reflect our foreign policy focus of advancing in partnership. We cannot neglect the critical task of developing with our continent, Africa and with the global South. One of the issues which will be discussed in BRICS is how to restructure the global, political, economic and financial architecture so that it becomes more balanced, representative, inclusive and equitable. I am certain we will also focus on accelerating Agenda 2063 and devising practical support for implementation of the AfCFTA.

“Allow me to conclude by sincerely congratulating all our nominees and award winners tonight not only for being our global ambassadors through flying our flag high, but also for contributing in your specific fields for the benefit of others and making the world a better place.

“The awards show any person can be a good ambassador for South Africa if they so wish. The very fact that you were nominated is a mark of the esteem with which you are held by your peers and that your country has chosen to recognise and honour you. You have all done our country proud.

“Let us continue in the noble spirit of Ubuntu and show the world that our humanity is caught up in the humanity of others and binds us in each of us as the Arch famously said.”

2023 Ubuntu Award winners

Ubuntu Economic Diplomacy Award (Africa): Theo Baloyi
Theo Baloyi is a South African entrepreneur and the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Bathu Shoes. He launched his eponymous shoe brand in 2015, having previously served as a Senior Associate at PwC in Dubai. He was featured in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2019. In 2021, he won GQ's Business Leader of the Year. The company owns and operates over 30 stores across South Africa and the Southern African Development Community region. He was appointed board member of the South African Council of Shopping Centres in July 2022.

Ubuntu Economic Diplomacy Award (Global): Sasol
Sasol is a global chemical and energy company. It harnesses knowledge and expertise to integrate sophisticated technologies and processes into world-scale operating facilities. It safely and sustainably sources, produces and markets a range of high-quality products in 22 countries, creating value for stakeholders. Sasol’s purpose of “Innovating for a better world” compels the company to deliver on the triple bottom line outcomes of People, Planet and Profit responsibly and always with the intent to be a force for good.

Sasol is a public company listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in South Africa and the New York Stock Exchange in the United States. The company strives to deliver sustainable and superior value to all its stakeholders.

Ubuntu Social Responsibility Award: Mthetho Christopher Tshemese

Mthetho Tshemese is a qualified clinical psychologist from Mdantsane Township, Eastern Cape. Known as "The Village Shrink“, he has been a sought-after social commentator since 2002 and a frequent expert panellist on television shows, trying to make mental health services accessible to marginalised communities.

In July 2018, Mthetho resigned from his job and started visiting various townships and villages in South Africa, other parts of the African continent as well places like Kingston in Jamaica, focussing his efforts on working mainly with boys and men in disadvantaged communities, advocating for the promotion of mental health, violence prevention and positive masculinities. 

Ubuntu Youth Diplomacy Award: Nsovo Mayimele

Nsovo Mayimele is a pharmacist and lecturer at the Tshwane University of Technology. Nsovo has served South Africa and the global community through her skills in healthcare, development and policy. She is an award-winning contributor, scientist and advocate for access to healthcare and women’s health.

Her voice and service have been observed on global platforms such as the World Health Organisation. She has recently been working with the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD as a technical expert to coordinate the local manufacturing of medicines within the African continent to address medicine access inequalities that Africa experienced during the pandemic.

Ubuntu Sports Diplomacy Award: Desiree Ellis

Soccer manager and former player Desiree Ellis currently coaches the South Africa women's national team. She made history by becoming the first coach to lead South Africa to Women’s Africa Cup of Nations success. She took six years to build a formidable team that beat Nigeria, which had won the competition nine times. In July 2022, Banyana Banyana won the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations for the first time ever. They beat hosts Morocco 2-1 in front of a packed Rabat stadium in the historical final.

She was awarded Confederation of African Football Women's Coach of the Year in 2018, 2019 and 2022.

Ubuntu Arts and Cultural Diplomacy Award (Youth): Makhadzi
Makhadzi is an award-winning South African singer, songwriter and dancer with numerous hit singles and collaborations with top artists. She is known to music lovers for her hit songs Tshanda Vhuya and Matorokisi. She has become a household name on the South African and international music scene.

Makhadzi has performed in countries such as Canada, France, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, to name but a few.
Ubuntu Arts and Cultural Diplomacy Award (Veteran): Abigail Kubeka
Mama Abigail Kubeka’s husky musical voice and remarkable expertise make her one of the finest in the entertainment world. A professional actress, film, television and cabaret star, she holds her audience spellbound and sparkles through every performance. Abigail was discovered at the age of 16 by Miriam Makeba, when Miriam invited her to join a top female singing group of the sixties, The Skylarks. Abigail understudied her in the acclaimed musical, King Kong, and she toured Europe for several months.

Her solo career has landed her many leading roles in musicals, TV dramas, soapies and films. She has performed in Europe, Asia and Africa. Abigail's first single was released in Nigeria and Europe in 1981. In 1992, she performed in the first Miss World Pageant at Sun City and in 1995, for Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to South Africa. Abigail performed in a musical revue in France to critical acclaim and at the opening ceremony of the All Africa Games in 1999. She was the recipient of the Woman of our Time Award in 1986. Abigail was the winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the eighth annual South African Film and Television awards in 2014. In 2006, she was awarded the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver for her achievement in and contribution to the art of music.

OR Tambo Lifetime Achievement Award: Ambassador Welile Nhlapo
During the difficult period of struggle against apartheid in South Africa, Ambassador Welile Nhlapo made a significant contribution to the liberation movement. He began his activities as a student in the Black Consciousness Movement and together with the late Steve Biko and Tebogo Mafole, co-authored the publication, Black Review, in 1972 that highlighted the activities of black organisations at the time. In 1973, a banning order was issued against him and he went into exile in Botswana in 1974. He later became the African National Congress Chief Representative in Botswana. He joined the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in 1994 and was part of the South African Government delegation to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 1994 when South Africa was re-admitted to the world body. In 1995, he was appointed South African Ambassador to Ethiopia and Permanent Representative to the Organisation of African Unity and the UN Economic Commission for Africa. In 1997, he was appointed Special Envoy to Burundi. He also served as non-resident Ambassador to Djibouti, Eritrea and Sudan. In 1998, he was appointed Deputy Director-General responsible for Africa in the DFA. During this period, he participated in South Africa's conflict resolution efforts in Lesotho, Democratic Republic of Congo, Comoros, Zimbabwe and the Great Lakes region.
In 2001, he was appointed Head of the Presidential Support Unit, which advised The Presidency on conflict situations in Africa and the Middle East. Contributing to the peace process in Burundi, as South Africa's Special Envoy, Ambassador Nhlapo formed part of the South African negotiating team assisting to find a solution to the conflict in that country. He was appointed Deputy Head of Mission responsible for political affairs in the African Union Mission in Burundi. He later became the Head of the Political Section of the UN Mission in Burundi. Shortly before assuming the post as South African Ambassador to the United States on 14 August 2007, Ambassador Nhlapo was Director in the Department of Political Affairs (Africa Division 1) at the UN Headquarters in New York. Ambassador Nhlapo took over the South African Chairship of the Kimberley Process on 1 January 2013. At the time, he was also the Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region and National Security Adviser to President Jacob Zuma. He is currently serving as Senior Political Adviser to ACCORD.
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