LOOK: Ramaphosa pats the army on the back for sacrifices across the continent during Armed Forces Day commemoration

Published Feb 21, 2023


Richards Bay - Commemorating this year’s Armed Forces Day in Richards Bay on Tuesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa gave the country's army a pat on the back for its sacrifices and peacekeeping efforts across the continent.

Ramaphosa said the country was inspired by its bravery as we stand here in the face of grave challenges confronting our society.

The day is commemorated to remember the sinking of the SS Mendi in the English channel during World War I, where 106 South African soldiers died.

The day also remembers other members of the army who perished in defence of the country and undertaking other missions.

The day started with Ramaphosa laying a wreath at eMpangeni world war monument across the N2.

He then moved to central Richards Bay for a parade and display of various army hardware by different units including the Navy, Air Force and Military Health Services.

Among the president’s guests were the embattled Zulu King, Misuzulu KaZwelithini and various Cabinet ministers.

Addressing the commemoration, Ramaphosa hailed the army for its great sacrifices and they actively contribute to the social and economic development of our country.

“While our armed forces are always on guard to defend our hard-earned sovereignty and constitutional democratic order, they do much more than that.

“They actively contribute to the social and economic development of our country.

Video: Sihle Mavuso/IOL

“They are to be found on rescue missions in times of disaster, building bridges where a desperate need exists and rehabilitating rivers from the effects of pollution.

“They have time and time again shown that they are a force for good and an integral part of all progressive humanity.

“I wish to pay tribute to all members of our armed forces who, at great risk to their own lives, work tirelessly to help maintain law and order in times of crisis.

“I commend the highest level of discipline with which they discharge their duties under difficult conditions.

“By virtue of their calling and allegiance to the constitution, they act without hesitation whenever called upon to do so, when their country needs them most.

“I salute all of you who carry out tasks in times of disaster that literally stand between life and death.

“We commend the exemplary selflessness, self-sacrifice and patriotism of our armed forces who, even in the face of great danger, always put the interests of the country first,” Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa said the army’s footprint is all over the African continent where they are on UN and AU-sanctioned peacekeeping missions.

“From North Africa to Southern Africa, from the Sahel to the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region, South Africa depends on the SANDF to support peacebuilding on the continent as part of a mandate from the African Union and the United Nations.

“We extend our appreciation and respect to our forces deployed in various missions across the continent.

“We mourn all those who have lost their lives in the effort to silence the guns on our continent,” he said.

Ramaphosa took his time to mourn the death of an SANDF soldier who died while serving in a peacekeeping mission in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo).

“Just two weeks ago, we lost Flight Sergeant Vusi Mabena when his helicopter came under attack in the eastern DRC. We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to his family, friends and colleagues… he is not alone, there are many others,” he said.

Ramaphosa said unlike the apartheid-era SADF, the modern democratic South African National Defence Force is committed to forging peace and supporting development.

“The primary function of the SANDF is to protect the territorial integrity of this nation’s borders. It is a tough task.

“We read of their successes every month, almost every week, as they confront illegal migration and international crime syndicates, working hand in hand with our nation’s law enforcement agencies as part of the long-running Operation Corona.

“Our soldiers are there to stand guard in times of crisis within our borders, as they did resolutely during Operation Prosper.

“Now the SANDF is guarding vital infrastructure against those who would endanger the security of the state to advance their own personal interests.

“We called on the SANDF during the initial phases of the Covid-19 lockdown. It was a vital part of our response to the pandemic through Operation Notlela,” Ramaphosa said.

Prior to the commemoration, the army was all over the King Cetshwayo district offering health services and social work for various communities.

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