Annually, the Presidency of the Republic of South Africa honours South African citizens and eminent foreign nationals who have advanced democracy or improved the lives of South Africans with National Orders. National Orders are the highest awards that our country bestows.
The Order of Ikhamanga recognises South African citizens who have excelled in the fields of arts, culture, literature, music, journalism and sport, and this year an Order of Ikhamanga in silver, will be awared by President Zuma to Ramakgobotla John Mekoa. Affectionately known in the jazz loving community, Johnny Mekoa established a jazz music centre that contributed to the growth of the careers of many South African jazz musicians.
Dr. Ramakgobotla John Mekoa was recently honoured by the Arts & Culture Trust with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Arts Advocacy.
Ramakgobotla John Mekoa was born on the 11th of April 1945, in Etwatwa, Benoni. His passion for jazz music started at an early age, fuelling his vision to pursue an education in the genre in order to become a jazz musician. Unfortunately in 1964 his dream seemed to slip away when he was rejected from university for being black – however, this did not deter him. His two older brothers gave him lessons over the years and during this time he would play at various jazz bars across Johannesburg.
In 1986 at the age of 41 Mekoa’s dream to study music materialized, where in 1991 he was awarded with a bachelor’s degree in Music from the University of Natal. Shortly afterwards he obtained a Fulbright Scholarship to study for his Masters Degree in Music at the University of Indiana in the United States. After the completion of his qualification John returned to South Africa and established the Music Academy of Gauteng in 1994.
The academy has become a centre for jazz excellence, with luminaries such as Malcolm Jiyane, Mthunzi Mvubu, Mpho Mabogoane, Nthabiseng Mokoena and Linda Tshabalala, to name a few. The centre has also made it a priority to focus on children from impoverished backgrounds by providing them with opportunities to pursue their dreams. One such example and products of this is the much celebrated Jiyane who was once a street kid. Mekoa has helped to identify the talents and contributed to the growth of careers of many South African jazz musicians.
The Order of Ikhamanga will be bestowed in Bronze on:
- Themba Patrick Magaisa: For his outstanding contribution to the development of indigenous literature in South Africa. His literary work has enriched the primary and secondary education curricula in our country.
- Mbulaeni Mulaudzi (Posthumous): For his outstanding achievements as a track athlete and for his contribution to the advancement of athletics in South Africa.
The Order will be bestowed in Silver on:
- Darius Mfana Dhlomo: For his excellent talent in various professional sporting codes. His tenacity, sheer talent and triumph in sport inspired generations of aspiring footballers and boxers who saw in him the epitome of excellence.
- Winnie Mahlangu: For her excellent contribution to the field of broadcasting and for keeping the listenership of Ukhozi FM, the largest radio station in the country informed and entertained.
- Ramakgobotla John Mekoa: For his excellent contribution to the development of jazz music in South Africa. He established a jazz music centre that contributed to the growth of the careers of many South African jazz musicians.
- Mbulelo Vizikhungo Mzamane (Posthumous): For his excellent contribution to the development of African literature and the upliftment of African languages on the global stage.