Press Statement on the eve of the awarding of the South Africa National Order: The Order of the Grand Companions of OR Tambo, to two Canadians; Brenda Wall and Ken Luckhardt.

April 29, 2024

President Cyril Ramaphosa, the Grand Patron of the National Orders, will on 30 April 2024 bestow the 2024 National Orders Awards on distinguished citizens and eminent foreign nationals who have contributed towards the advancement of democracy and have made a significant impact on improving the lives of South Africans.

National Orders are the highest awards that a country, through its President, bestows on its citizens and eminent foreign nationals.

The President will bestow on deserving recipients the Order of Mendi for Bravery, the Order of Ikhamanga, the Order of the Baobab, the Order of Luthuli, the Order of Mapungubwe, and the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo.

This year, for the second time in the history of the awards, the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo will be awarded to two Canadians who have contributed to the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. The awardees, Brenda Wall and Ken Luckhardt, are both long time trade union activists. Their award is preceded only by one other Canadian; the late former Prime Minister of Canada, Brian Mulroney, bestowed upon him in 2015.

Brenda Wall and Ken Luckhardt will be presented their prestigious awards, the Order of the Grand Companions of OR Tambo, by South African President Manamela Cyril Ramaphosa at the National Awards Ceremony, scheduled in Pretoria on April 30, 2024.

In the late 1970s, Brenda Wall and Ken Luckhardt, anti-apartheid activists from the University of Alberta, were charged for protesting against a cricket team with apartheid ties.

As dedicated activists of change, they abandoned their studies and worked with the then exiled South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) that was in alliance with the African National Congress (ANC) then led by OR Tambo.

Volunteering their time, skills and dedication to SACTU, Brenda Wall and Ken Luckhardt researched and wrote “Organize or Starve,” a pivotal book on the South African Congress of Trade Unions published in 1980.

This work became integral to the global anti-apartheid movement. Upon SACTU’s request, they founded the SACTU Canadian Solidarity Committee in 1980, fostering unprecedented trade union international solidarity within Canada through extensive grassroots organizing, speaking tours, and awareness campaigns.

Their efforts significantly raised anti-apartheid consciousness among Canadian trade unions, leading to various forms of protests, including boycotts of South African goods, and pushing for sanctions against the apartheid regime. Their activism contributed to the Canadian government’s decision to halt trade with apartheid South Africa. The Committee also raised significant funds for the SACTU Strike Fund, marking a milestone in Canadian trade union solidarity.

With continued support from SACTU, the Committee hosted numerous South African trade unionists in Canada, further solidifying the solidarity between Canadian and South African unions. This relationship persisted beyond the apartheid era, supporting the ANC’s election efforts in 1994 and leading to ongoing union-to-union exchanges and collaborations.

Wall and Luckhardt’s legacy extends beyond their direct activism; their work inspired ongoing efforts to support social justice causes and the global trade union movement, serving as an enduring inspiration for their dedication to ending apartheid and fostering international solidarity.

On behalf of the people of South Africa, we take this moment to congratulate both Ken and Brenda for the solidarity and commitment they have shown to the liberation of South Africa from the ravages of apartheid.

We hope that their commitment and solidarity can be a source of inspiration for oppressed people the world over, especially for the Palestinian people who are in need more than ever, of our shared humanity.

Thank you Brenda and Ken. Congratulations on your well deserved National Order.

Rieaz Moe Shaik
South African High Commissioner