Commitment to sustain peace and stability in South Africa was the order of the day on Sunday during the Annual Memorial Services held at Freedom Park and Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria.
The memorial services event is part of the commemoration of soldiers who fought for freedom and humanity of South Africa and was attended by Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, reports SA News.
The Minister said she had a first time experience of an event of this nature and also participated in laying the wreath during the ceremony at Voortrekker Monument’s South African Defence Force (SADF) Wall of Remembrance.
The Minister said she felt privileged to have commemorated the lives of veterans and heroes who lost their lives in defence of the country.
“It was a mixture of emotions as I watched people laying their wreaths. I am human, I am a mother… I could feel the pain. On the other hand it actually hit me really hard to realise that it is not only just the Military Veterans of the non-statutory forces but I am a Minister for all Military Veterans, both who were in the statutory forces and those in non-statutory forces,” she said.
She described the ceremony as dignified, and symbolising the rainbow nation and South Africa’s reconciliation. The minister said the event also made her realise even more the importance of having a Heroes Acre in South Africa as many heroes “are still out there in the soil of other countries”.
It was important for every human being to remind themselves of their origins and history and commemorate that.
In the morning of the memorial services, the programme started at the Isivivane in Freedom Park, to allow dignitaries to lay wreaths for fallen heroes of any form of struggle that South Africa ever experienced.
Freedom Park Acting CEO Jane Mufamadi explained Isivivane as a symbolic resting space for those who sacrificed their lives for freedom and humanity. People who visit the place take off their shoes as it is considered sacred.
There are eleven boulders erected in a form of a circle at the Isivivane, representing all nine provinces of South Africa, another one for the nation and the last represents the international community.
Mufamadi said the international community is represented at the Isivivane because South Africa recognises the support it received from the international community to liberate the country.
“We call Isivivane a sacred place because after the boulders were donated from the provinces, we invited religious leaders of diverse faith based organisations that are formally recognised in South Africa, to come together to pray in the space and imbue it with a sense of spirituality,” she said.
She said the nature of Isivivane makes it appropriate to hold memorial services and lay wreaths in a form of a ceremony.
“The significance of today’s ceremony is having members of liberation formations, former sowing enemies, members of SADF and Veterans coming together to recommit to building peace and stability in South Africa,” she said.
She said the ceremony also contributes to opening reconciliation and social cohesion dialogues.
Construction of Freedom Park was completed in 2013, and Mufamadi said more people, including the international community, are starting to show interest in visiting the park and learn about the heritage and history of the country.
“To date, we have about 85 000 names on the wall that are inscribed for people who died for freedom and humanity. But we don’t only focus on the liberation struggle, we acknowledge the eight conflicts that shape the historical consciousness of South Africa because there are different struggles that our people went through, like colonial wars, World War I and II, the South African war— which included black people who were not recognised before,” she said.
The first Deputy President of South African National Military Veterans’ Association (SANMVA), Major General Gert Opperman, said he was grateful that the annual memorial service initiative of this nature was established three years ago and the event is growing.
“For me it signifies that we are more and more aware of the need to come together and to remember the past together, to talk about differences and get beyond those differences that caused a war amongst us.
“We were enemies but we got beyond that and work towards a better future for our country,” he said.
Opperman said it was very important to involve the international community in the annual commemoration, and this year five ambassadors from foreign countries were part of the service, including Zambia, Cuba, Serbia, Belgium and Denmark.
He said as much as it is important to always remember fallen heroes and commemorate their lives, it is vital to note that South Africans are collectively working together for a better life of the country.