SANDF honours peacekeepers on international day

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On 29 May, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) marked the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, paying tribute to the brave men and women who have served and continue to serve in United Nations peacekeeping operations.

The commemoration took place at the SANDF Mobilisation Centre at De Brug, outside Bloemfontein, with the Chief of the SANDF, General Rudzani Maphwanya, leading the event. He laid a wreath to honour all the fallen soldiers who have worn the blue UN helmet, the SANDF reported.

The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers is an annual observance that recognizes the contributions of peacekeepers and honours the memory of those who have lost their lives in the pursuit of peace since 1943.

During his keynote address, Maphwanya expressed deep gratitude and admiration for the courageous men and women who have embarked on peacekeeping missions. He acknowledged the immense sacrifices made by these individuals who leave behind their families and loved ones to serve in challenging and often dangerous environments. The Commander emphasized the supreme price paid by some peacekeepers and stressed the importance of commemorating their memory.

Maphwanya extended his appreciation to Dr Irvin Khoza, Patrice Motsepe, and Kaizer Motaung for their contributions to the Education Trust Fund. This fund provides support to the children of SANDF members who lost their lives while serving on peacekeeping missions. Their generous contributions ensure that these children receive the necessary assistance and support as they continue their education and navigate life without their fallen parents.

Lerato Sejake, a representative of the families of fallen soldiers, took the opportunity to express gratitude on behalf of all the families present. She acknowledged the difficulty of the occasion for many families, but expressed their delight and appreciation that the SANDF remembered and invited them to the event. Sejake emphasized the significance of commemorating and celebrating the lives and legacies of their fallen family members.

The SANDF began honouring the International Day of UN Peacekeepers in 2015.

The Department of Defence records around 50 South African soldiers killed since the country became an active troop and equipment supplier to African Union (AU) and United Nations (UN) continental peacekeeping and peace support missions, but this figure is not complete. When those killed in Lesotho or the Central African Republic (CAR) are included it increases to almost 90.

The SANDF has nearly 1 200 members serving with the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Monusco). The most recent South African fatality in the DRC came in February when South African Air Force (SAAF) Sergeant Vusimusi Mabena was killed by a sniper whilst he was flying in an Oryx helicopter. The bullet also injured the pilot, Major Omolemo Matlapeng, but he survived.