The Order of Ikhamanga is granted by the president for achievements in arts, culture, and and sport, with the silver class denoting excellence. Other South Africans receiving the honour this year were Olympic swimmer Cameron van der Burgh, Victor Ntoni, Sandra Prinsloo, disabled tennis star Lucas Sithole and “Jomo” Sono.
Mda, who was born in Herschel, Eastern Cape, in 1948, began his writing career mainly as a playwright. His first published play, We Shall Sing for the Fatherland, won the Amstel Special Merit Award in 1978. A year later he was awarded the Amstel Playwright of the Year Award for The Hill.
Mda published his first novels, Ways of Dying and She Plays with the Darkness, in 1995, winning the Olive Schreiner Prize and the M-Net Book Prize for the former, and the Sanlam Literary Award for the latter. His most recent novel is The Sculptors of Mapungubwe, while a new work, Rachel’s Blue, is expected this year.
Mda’s work has been translated into 20 languages. He holds an MFA and an MA from Ohio University, where he holds a professorship in the Creative Writing Department, and a PhD from the University of Cape Town. He has been awarded honorary doctorates by UCT and the University of the Free State.
The bronze Order of Ikhamanga was bestowed on Olympic runner Caster Semenya.
“In this class we honour our celebrated athlete Mokgadi Caster Semenya, who stood firm and resolute against prejudice and went on to become an Olympic gold medalist,” Zuma said.
Olympic swimmer Cameron van der Burgh received the order in silver, together with Jazz promoter Rashid Lombard, Lindiwe Mabuza, paralympic athlete Fanie van der Merwe, novelist Zakes Mda, Victor Ntoni, Sandra Prinsloo, disabled tennis star Lucas Sithole and soccer coach Ephraim Jomo Sono.
“[Sono] has excelled as a gifted player, as a coach and a mentor who takes efforts to unearth youth soccer talent.”