Kimberley - New SANDF Commander-in-Chief, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Wednesday that thousands of jobs would be created through the revival of the national shipbuilding industry.
Ramaphosa was speaking at the Armed Forces Day event held at the Cenotaph World War Memorial in Kimberley.
Dignitaries that also attended the event included the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa Nqakula, the Secretary for Defence, Dr Sam Makhudu Gulube, Chief of the SANDF, General Solly Shoke, and Northern Cape Premier Sylvia Lucas.
Ramaphosa stated that the SANDF would lead the way in rejuvenating the naval dockyard in Simon’s Town.
“It will commence with the building of patrol and survey vessels for the South African Navy. This project will create 570 high-end technical jobs and 4 500 indirect jobs over the next five years.”
Ramaphosa said that during the past year the SA Navy had continued to lead the Department of Defence’s participation in Operation Phakisa, which the SANDF aims to use as a vehicle to enhance shipbuilding.
The president said that the SANDF had conducted various maritime border safeguarding operations under Operation Corona to ensure the safety and stability of South Africa’s maritime zones.
“Operation Thusano is a departmental initiative with the Cuban armed forces that involves the maintenance and repairing of the SANDF operational vehicle fleet,” Ramaphosa added.
He indicated that since its inception in 2015, over 4 000 vehicles had been repaired and several workshops in SANDF units revived.
“A total of 446 South Africans are apprentices and a further 395 have qualified as technicians through transfer of practical knowledge by the Cubans.”
Ramaphosa said that he would engage with the Department of Defence, as a priority.
“I will soon be visiting the leadership and management of our national departments to see how well we can work together to accelerate the imperatives of service delivery, training and job creation.”
He pointed out that the technological capability of the SANDF proved that the country was well positioned, through the armed forces, to participate in the fourth industrial revolution.
“This has established our defence sector as an important contributor to innovation in our economy.
“It has made defence a sector where young people can exercise not just their physical capabilities, but their creativity and exercise skills across a broad range of endeavours – from catering to intelligence gathering, to engineering and project management.”
He applauded the Department of Defence for actively promoting the defence force as a career of choice.
During a wreath laying ceremony at the Cenotaph on Wednesday, Ramaphosa paid tribute to the soldiers and crew members who lost their lives in the SS Mendi maritime disaster in 1917 in World War I.
“The SS Mendi was transporting 823 members of the 5th Battalion, the South African Native Labour Corps, to France when it was struck by the SS Darro. Over 600 South Africans perished in the cold waters of the English Channel.
“This day has become a day that allows us to remember all men and women who have paid the ultimate price in defence of freedom, peace and justice,” said Ramaphosa.
“It reminds us that blood was spilled by many of our people to guarantee us our freedom and dignity.
“It is a reminder that honourable and courageous men and women continue to put their lives on the line to secure our peace and defend our constitution.”
He added that with Armed Forces Day coinciding with the centenary year of the first commander-in-chief, president Nelson Mandela, the SANDF was proving to be a non-partisan unifier and defender of all citizens, as envisaged by Madiba.
"This day is a reminder that our soldiers are an integral part of us, not an external force ... they are the bedrock of our communities.
“President Mandela oversaw the formation of the SANDF as a force that upholds the constitution of the Republic in defence of all its people.
“President Mandela left behind a disciplined SANDF that protects our territorial integrity and supports peace and development initiatives on the African continent.”
More than 3 000 armed forces members and a convoy of military vehicles paraded through the streets of Kimberley after Ramaphosa had delivered the morning’s main address at the Cenotaph.
The week-long celebrations that culminated in the parade have been hailed as a “tremendous success” for the Northern Cape as well as the men and women in uniform.
Thousands of residents lined the city’s streets on Wednesday to observe the parade which started off from the Cenotaph World War Memorial.
The spokesperson for the SA Air Force, Colonel Eugene Motati, said that the military had reached the target that it had set out during the initial planning of the event.
"This event was a tremendous success and we as the armed forces would not be able to have pulled it off without the co-operation and partnership of the provincial government departments as well as the broader community of the Northern Cape,” said Motati.
“Everyone, from the people who assisted in cleaning the streets or cutting the trees to the those in the offices who were responsible for communicating to all parties, including the spectators at the fan park, played a vital part in the event.
“We invaded the space of the residents of the city and we were received with warm greetings and open hearts. People showed great respect and honour to all of our officials. There was such a positive disposition from the residents. I am truly impressed by the attitude of the people and the manner in which they accommodated us."