Just elected South African president Cyril Ramaphosa was in Kimberley on Sunday to attend an inter-faith church service as part of the build-up to Wednesday’s Armed Forces Day event in Kimberley, at which he will also be present.
Unconfirmed indications are President Ramaphosa will be in the Northern Cape capital early on Wednesday for at least part of Armed Forces Day, which the defence force has again spread over a five day period, and return to Cape Town in time for the 14h00 national budget.
Speaking at the church service on Sunday – his first public appearance outside Parliament as president – Ramaphosa said Armed Forces Day 2018 carried “a profound and special meaning for our nation”.
“It occurs at a time when our defence force has again confirmed the depth of the roots of our democracy and the flourishing of constitutional order.
“They (the Armed Forces Day celebrations) occur as our nation celebrates the change of leadership in the governing party without any appetite for senseless bloodshed because our defence force is led by wise women and men who abide by the idea of the supremacy of the Constitution and the Rule of Law.”
He went to pay tribute to democratic South Africa’s first president, Nelson Mandela, saying he “envisaged the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) as a non-partisan unifier and defender of all South Africans”.
Mandela, Ramaphosa added, left South Africa “a coherent SANDF whose task is to diligently safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic, build peace and support development on the African continent”.
“This is a SANDF that inspires confidence for a better, more secure tomorrow.
“A truly national defence force for all South Africans that guarantees its tanks and guns will ever again roll into townships and suburbs to fight the same people it was established to protect.”
The just elected fifth president of democratic South Africa singled out the SANDF’s involvement in rural development for specific mention.
“We pay tribute to the men and women who wear the SANDF uniform and bear arms on behalf of South Africans. Your patriotism is felt throughout our country by community initiatives like Koba-Tlala (‘fighting hunger’ in Setswana).
“We look to you to remain the disciplined soldiers and agents of rural development through Koba-Tlala, local procurement, small business support, skills and enterprise development,” he said when addressing the inter-faith church service attended by high ranking officers from all four SANDF services – the SA Air Force, SA Army, SA Military Health Service and SA Navy.
In support of his prior commitment to meet with all government departments and agencies he said he would “prioritise his engagement” with Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s Department of Defence and Military Veterans.