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National Orders for Witsies

- Wits University

Father of rock art archaeology among recipients of prestigious Order of the Baobab (gold).

The Wits recipients of National Orders for 2015 are Professor Emeritus James David Lewis-Williams, journalism student Dough Anderson, and alumni Justice Yvonne Mokgoro and William Frankel, Chair of the Wits Foundation in the UK. They were honoured by President Jacob Zuma during the ceremony on 8 December 2015.

Making us proud

“Wits congratulates all those honoured, and especially those Witsies who have made a mark in our society. The work undertaken by Professor David Lewis-Williams and Doug Anderson must be commended because it contributes in powerful ways to South Africa. By preserving our history and working to stop the marginalisation of people with disabilities, these two individuals have ensured that we respect and honour the diversity of South Africans. We are proud that our people are being honoured at the highest level of government,” says Professor Adam Habib, Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal.

Father of rock art archaeology

Professor Emeritus James David Lewis-William from Wits University received the prestigious Order of the Baobab (gold) for his outstanding contribution to South African archaeology.

His work on rock art of ancient people in southern Africa has contributed valuable information about the life and history of San people in the region. Known as the father of rock art archaeology, Lewis-Williams has published 19 pioneering books and over 100 articles on the subject of rock art.

He taught archaeology at Wits University from 1978 to 2000 and is one of South Africa’s most frequently cited scientific writers with more than 1 000 citations in fields as diverse as genetics, art history, anthropology and the neuropsychology.

 “I am quite proud to receive such an honour. I was not expecting an award at this level,” says Lewis-Williams.

In 2000, former President Thabo Mbeki invited Lewis-Williams to translate the South African national motto into the /Xam San language, because of his command of the now almost extinct /Xam language spoken by the San people.

Beating the odds

Dough Anderson was awarded the Order of the Baobab (silver) in acknowledgement of his tremendous work to uplift the lives of children and people with disabilities.

He is the brainchild of several fundraising campaigns for children with disabilities, such as the Differently Abled 24/7/36 initiative. He also supports various charities dealing with disabilities, animal welfare, vulnerable groups and the environment.

His life is testament to his work.  Born with a spinal defect, dislocated hips, club-feet and hydrocephalus (water on the brain), his fighting spirit spurred him to achieve at the highest levels.

“I was a boy who was given a 98% chance of dying but I grasped the two percent chance of living. I have had 42 operations to date. I have faced severe discrimination at schools and in the workplace and was considered a ‘risk’ because of my disability,” Anderson explains.

“After struggling to find employment, I got a job at a call centre. While working there, I saw a course being offered in the newspaper for radio training. I got into the course and shortly after was given an opportunity to present my own disability talk show on a community radio station in 2004,” he adds. “I am just a regular Joe Soap, who has been blessed on my journey and choose to try and make a difference in the world whenever and however I can.  Being recognised for this at the highest level, is both inspiring and humbling.”

Anderson is now a senior content producer at Radio 2000 and is enrolled in a postgraduate course as a precursor to his BA Honours degree.

Justice prevails

Justice Yvonne Mokgoro is a Wits alumnus and received the Order of the Baobab (bronze) for her outstanding contribution to the field of law and the administration of justice in a democratic South Africa. Wits awarded Mokgoro with an honorary degree in 2013. She was recognised for her commitment to sociological jurisprudence particularly in the fields of human rights, customary law and the impact of law on society generally, and on women and children specifically.

Fighting apartheid

William Frankel, Chair of the Wits Foundation in the UK received the Order of Luthuli (silver) for his contribution to the fight against apartheid. Frankel played a significant role in raising funds for those detained by apartheid security forces and those charged under apartheid legislation.