South African Medals Website
South Africa, and the former homelands and South West Africa
Arthur Radburn Online since 2001
Civil orders, decorations and medals
May 2006 / August 2012
Republic of South Africa : 1967-2002
A NEW civil honours system was developed after South Africa became a republic in 1961. It eventually comprised five orders, and several decorations and medals.
The republican civil awards were introduced piecemeal from May 1967 onwards. They were revised in the 1980s, and a Chancery of Orders was established in the Office of the State President (now 'the Presidency') in 1986, to administer most of them. Most of the awards were continued after 1994, until an entirely new honours system was introduced in December 2002.
Unless otherwise stated below, these awards were conferred by the state president.
Woltemade Decoration for Bravery: Gold (1970-1988) The republican version of the Queen's Medal for Bravery, awarded for great and exceptional gallantry in saving, or attempting to save, life or property. Altogether, 18 decorations were awarded, the first recipient (1984) being Dirk Bester, who saved his family from armed attackers.
Insignia: A circular gold medal, depicting Wolraad Woltemade on horseback rescuing shipwreck survivors from the sea (obverse) and the South African heraldic lion (reverse). The obverse was the design by Renee Joubert that had previously been on the reverse of the Queen's Medal for Bravery.
Woltemade Cross for Bravery: Gold (WD) (1988-2002) For outstanding bravery in saving or protecting lives or State property. Altogether, 27 decorations were awarded, the first recipient (1988) being Hendrik Boshoff, who had rescued someone from the jaws of a leopard.
Insignia: A gold convex cross with a central medallion depicting Woltemade on his horse rescuing shipwreck survivors from the sea (obverse) and the SA coat of arms (reverse). It is worn on a neck ribbon.
Order of the Southern Cross (1986-2002) For achievements in the interests of South Africa. Only 13 awards were made, most of them to scientists in various fields. Awarded in two classes:
Insignia: A white-enamelled gold or silver 5-armed Maltese cross displaying a blue-enamelled 5-pointed star with a diamond in the centre (obverse). It is worn on a neck ribbon. The breast star is a multi-rayed pentagon with the badge on the obverse.
Order of the Star of South Africa (Non-Military) (1978-2002) Originally (1978-88) called the 'civilian' division of the order which had been established for the SA Defence Force in 1975. It was awarded to civilians in defence-related industries and organisations and, from 1986, to senior police, railways police, prisons service, and intelligence service officers, for services which contributed to the security and/or general national interest of South Africa.
Unlike the military division of the order, it had five classes, each with its own insignia:
Insignia: A blue-enamelled Maltese cross displaying an 8-pointed star with a diamond in the centre (obverse); the SSA, SSAS and CSSA badges are superimposed on wreaths of protea flowers. The SSA, SSAS and CSSA badges are worn on neck ribbons, and the OSSA and MSSA are worn on the chest. The SSA breast star is gold with eight multi-rayed points (the centre ray on each point being silver) and the badge in the centre. The SSAS breast star is silver (with gold centre rays) and the badge in the centre.
Order for Meritorious Service (1986-2002) Awarded for service in the general public interest. Recipients included cabinet ministers, judges, captains of commerce and industry, church leaders, academics, sports stars, and prominent figures in the arts and sciences. The order had two classes:
Insignia: The badge is a white-enamelled gold or silver gable cross, displaying the national arms in the centre of a smaller cross (obverse). It is worn on a neck ribbon, which was changed in 1996. The breast star consists of the badge superimposed on a 4-pointed multi-rayed diagonal star.
Order of Good Hope (1973-2002) Awarded to foreign citizens (and, from 1980 to 1988, to South Africans too), for promoting international relations with the increasingly isolated apartheid state. The order was originally divided into five classes:
The order was reorganised in 1988:
Insignia: An 8-pointed multi-rayed gold or silver star, displaying two white doves on a turquoise roundel (obverse) and the national coat of arms (reverse).
Decoration for Meritorious Service (DMS) (1970-1986) For exceptionally distinguished service to South Africa. 109 decorations were awarded, to cabinet ministers, judges, captains of commerce and industry, Afrikaner academics and church leaders, prominent figures in the arts, etc. Superseded by the Order for Meritorious Service.
Insignia: A 5-armed gold Maltese cross, displaying a golden protea flower on a blue roundel in the centre of a 5-pointed diamond-studded star, all superimposed on a multi-rayed silver and gold plaque (obverse). It is worn on a neck ribbon.
Woltemade Decoration for Bravery: Silver (1970-1988) For gallantry in saving, or attempting to save, life or property. A total of 44 decorations was awarded, the first recipient (1973) being Johannes le Roux, who sacrificed his life to help fellow schoolchildren escape from a bus trapped in the path of an oncoming train.
Insignia: Same design as the Woltemade Decoration for Bravery: Gold, but in silver.
Woltemade Cross for Bravery: Silver (WDS) (1988-2002) For exceptional bravery in saving or protecting life or State property. Altogether, 39 decorations were awarded, the first recipient (1988) being Erasmus Hattingh.
Insignia: Same design as the WD, but smaller and in silver, and worn on the chest.
Civil Protection Medal for Bravery (1976-1994) Originally (1976-93) called the 'Civil Defence Medal for Bravery'. Awarded by the minister responsible for civil defence, to civil defence officials, first aid workers and, until 1993, fire services, for bravery while in danger.
Insignia: An oblong silver cross on an oval laurel wreath, displaying a cross of silver stretchers and protea flowers on a red oval (obverse).
President's Decoration for Distinguished Service (1987-1994) For distinguished service by Public Service directors-general (department heads) and equivalent ranks.
Insignia: An elaborate gold cross with a bundle of four rods in each angle, displaying the South African heraldic lion on a red roundel (obverse).
Civil Protection Medal for Meritorious Service (1976-1994) Originally (1976-93) called the "Civil Defence Medal for Meritorious Service". Awarded by the minister responsible for civil defence, to civil defence officials, first aid workers and, until 1993, fire services, for exceptionally meritorious service and particular devotion to duty.
Insignia: A red-enamelled circular silver medal depicting a silver cross of stretchers (obverse).
State President's Sport Award (1967-1994) Awarded annually, for sports achievements of the highest international standard.
Insignia: A circular gold medal depicting a flying bird within a laurel wreath, superimposed on a 32-pointed star. It is worn on a neck ribbon. The medal was designed by Ernst de Jong.
SA Sports Merit Award (1971-1994) Awarded annually,to individual sportsmen and -women, for the best achievements in their respective organised sports each year. It had two classes, based on the number of provincial unions in each sport: Silver for sports with seven or more unions, and Bronze for those with three to six unions.
Insignia: Similar design to the State President's Sport Award, but in silver or bronze.