‘CONGRATULATIONS” and “well deserved” were the words offered to Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba minutes after he was honoured with France’s insignia of Officier de la Légion d’Honneur, or officer in the legion of honour.He was awarded the highest honour by Christophe Farnaud, ambassador of France to South Africa at the French residence on Wednesday evening.
He said the honour was the highest order in France, established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 to reward citizens who achieved great success in terms of merits.
It also celebrates the accomplishments of distinguished individuals, irrespective of sex, social background and nationality.
And it was due to merits acquired during his time he served in the policy and planning division of the National Department of Health, and at the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, where he worked closely with France that Ntsaluba showed that he deserved the honour.
Ntsaluba has worked with France and other African countries in the fight against diseases such as malaria and HIV/Aids, among other medical challenges.
Reflecting on the positions Ntsaluba currently holds, Farnaud said: “You are the executive director for Discovery Holdings Limited, and in this task you have been able to bring your experience and knowledge in healthcare to the benefit of your fellow citizens.”
Ntsaluba is executive director for Discovery Holdings Limited, a board member of the Medical Research Council and is a former Director-General of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
He has also served in the committee of the World Health Organisation and, among his accolades, this well-known medical doctor participated in the running of health services for South Africans exiled in various southern African countries from 1987 to 1990.
The 57-year-old doctor is currently the acting chairperson of the South African National Aids Trust, and all those roles, the French felt, made him stand out.
Ntsaluba said he was heartened by the realisation that it recognised his selflessness. He said: “The honour is not based purely on the notion of altruism, but rooted in the reasoned understanding of the strategic importance of mutual beneficials in Africa in the advancement of national interest of France.”
He was well aware that there were many others more deserving of the honour, but was grateful nonetheless, Ntsaluba said.
“It is with great honour that I receive the appointment you have bestowed upon me, I consider it a great honour and privilege to have had the opportunity to have served my country and contribute to the strengthening of the bilateral pride between our two countries.
“Steve Jobs once said the only way to do great work is to love what you do, and honestly, I could not have asked for a greater privilege than to serve my country,” Ntsaluba said.
He told the Pretoria News that just as everyone liked to be recognised for the work they did, he too was pleased that his hard work was recognised.
He said, however, the ceremony was more of the moment of reflection for him. “To me, this day is like a moment just to reflect back and think of all the great opportunities I have had to serve my country, and more importantly, to think of all the people who helped with the work we carried out.”
He celebrated his special moment with members of his family, and current and former colleagues who he said had supported him throughout his journey.
The celebration included taking “selfies” with loved ones and those at the ceremony.