The father of late 9-year-old Thapelo Tambani says he is still in pain over the death of his heroic son, but remains comforted by the 2019 national Order of Mendi for Bravery bestowed upon him on Thursday by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
"I can say I am happy as a parent but also, in the same breath, I am not, because the award cannot bring my son back, you understand.
"From his birth, he has always been a brave kid. I will remember him fondly through this award. When I see it, I will see him," Jeffrey Tsakale told News24 at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guesthouse following the National Orders ceremony.
The National Orders are the highest awards that South Africa bestows through the president upon citizens and members of the international community who have made a significant contribution towards making the country a free, democratic and successful nation, united in its diversity.
The Order of Mendi for Bravery is awarded to citizens who have performed extraordinary acts of bravery that placed their lives in great danger.
Tsakale received the silver award on behalf of his 9-year-old son who drowned after saving the life of his friend, Mulalo Sien Mulelwa, in February last year.
The pair were playing on a heap of sand located near a construction site in Extension 10 of Soshanguve, north of Pretoria when Mulelwa slipped and fell into a waterlogged trench.
The brave Tambani jumped into the muddy water in a bid to rescue his friend.
After successfully getting Mulelwa to safety, Tambani drowned after he could not get himself out of the trench.
Mulelwa then notified Tambani's 17-year-old brother, Joseph, of the incident, leading to a search by the local community, but to no avail.
Police found the lifeless body of Tambani more than five hours after he had fallen into the excavation site.
"My heart is still paining for him, I will never forget what happened for the rest of my life but I congratulate him on his achievement," Tsakane concluded.