It appears bureaucratic bungling is behind three dead South African sailors not being honoured posthumously in this year’s National Orders, presented by SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Commander-in-Chief, President Cyril Ramaphosa, late in April.
The sailors – Leading Seaman Amrithlall Tothara Ramdin, Able Seaman Francois William Mundell and Seaman Henro Ter Borg – died when they went to assist Department of Public Works employees working on a sewage valve at what is now Naval Base Durban ahead of Armed Forces Day last year.
Soon after the tragedy the SA Navy indicated the sailors would be honoured with posthumous decorations but not as part of the 2017 National Orders investiture because of the timeframe. “All three will be recognised and honoured for their valiant, but sadly, ill-fated rescue attempt,” the SA Navy said last April.
Deon Fourie, Professor of Strategic Studies at Unisa and an authority on South African medals and decorations said at the time the three would in all probability be honoured with the Order of Mendi.
“It is a national order and very much one to do with bravery and saving lives which is what the sailors lost their own lives doing,” he said.
In May defenceWeb asked SANDF Corporate Communications and SA Navy media relations why the names of the three dead sailors were not among those honoured the previous month at the National Orders investiture. There has not been any response and numerous telephonic follow-ups have also not yet yielded any response.
defenceWeb has reliably learnt the original submissions for medals for Ramdin, Mundell and Ter Borg was rejected and sent back to Naval Base Durban. No updated and corrected re-submission had, at the time of publication, been received by the SA Navy fleet medal section.
“It means there is currently nothing in the system,” defenceWeb was told.
2018 recipients were presented with the Order of Ikhamanga (bronze and silver), the Order of the Baobab (silver), the Order of Luthuli (bronze, silver and gold) and the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo (bronze, silver and gold). No Order of Mendi honours are listed in the Presidency 2018 National Orders booklet.
The Mendi Decoration for Bravery is awarded to South African citizens who performed extraordinary acts of bravery, placing their own lives in danger in trying to save the life of another person, or by saving property, inside or outside South Africa. It can be awarded in gold, silver or bronze categories with a stylised SS Mendi as the central point on the award’s shield.