Are you, dear reader, familiar with the National Orders awards?

Every year Elizabeth II, the Queen of England, honours men and women who have achieved greatness in their daily endeavours. They could be sportsmen or women, those engaged in business or the arts, politicians or ordinary men and women who have faced extraordinary circumstances and triumphed.

Every year Elizabeth II, the Queen of England, honours men and women who have achieved greatness in their daily endeavours. They could be sportsmen or women, those engaged in business or the arts, politicians or ordinary men and women who have faced extraordinary circumstances and triumphed.

Soldiers who have seen action in Iraq and performed beyond the call of duty have been honoured. Writers and painters who have brought honour to that nation have also been honoured.

I do not particularly buy into the idea of royalty (I don't see the point of royal families, generally) and I find the antics of British royals particularly trivial.

However, I was amazed at how British society rallied around those who are honoured in this manner by Her Majesty.

Once the honours are announced, the country's media go to town. They write and report about the achievements of those honoured and join in praising them.

Their pictures are plastered all over the newspapers and magazines.

I like that. Whatever you say about the English, they like their heroes. They like those who have achieved great things for their country.

Nine years ago this country started handing out National Orders to those who have contributed to humanity in general and to the evolution of South African society.

Every year President Thabo Mbeki hands out these honours to deserving men and women in Pretoria.

Tomorrow Mbeki will honour 24 men and women who have given their time and talent to help make this country what it is today.

Tomorrow Mbeki will honour people who are, rightly, heroes to those of us who cherish this new South Africa.

Have you, dear reader, heard anything about this? Do you know who will be honoured? Do you know who has been honoured in previous years?

The most likely answer is a big fat NO. This saddens me greatly. After all, this is a country that has so many heroes.

This is a country that has achieved so much through the efforts of ordinary men and women who strove and gave their lives to bring us where we are today.

Indeed, there are South Africans who are doing so much to make this a better country. These South Africans bring honour and acclaim to this country. Yet in many instances, we do not recognise their contributions.

It is a disgrace that these honours do not get publicity in our newspapers and media generally. It is a disgrace that our heroes are not recognised by the general populace of this country.

Among those Mbeki will honour tomorrow are Soweto businessman Richard Maponya, a man who is an inspiration to those of us who value entrepreneurship. Others include the indefatigable Sally Motlana and Harry Belafonte.

And yet you will not see a picture of these heroes and heroines in your newspaper on Wednesday. Instead, you are likely to see pictures of Khanyi Mbau, a nonentity who is famous for nothing except spending money she has not worked for.

We should be ashamed of ourselves as a society.

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