South Africa’s new Commander in Chief Cyril Ramaphosa underlined the achievements of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) during his first Armed Forces Day as President, underscoring internal and external operations as well as naval shipbuilding projects.
Officiating over proceedings at the Cenotaph World War Monument in Kimberley this morning, Ramaphosa reminded the audience that Armed Forces Day is held on the anniversary of the sinking of the SS Mendi in 1917 in the English Channel with a large loss of South African life. “This day is a reminder that our soldiers are an integral part of us, not an external force,” he said.
“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.
“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.”
Making mention of some highlights over the last year, Ramaphosa said the South African Navy continued to lead the Department of Defence’s participation in Operation Phakisa to drive the oceans economy.
“Through Operation Phakisa, the SANDF aims to enhance ship-building. During this year, the SANDF will lead the rejuvenation of the Naval Dockyard in Simon’s Town.
“It will commence with the building of patrol and survey vessels for the South African Navy to rejuvenate the national ship building industry. This project will create 570 high technical jobs and 4,500 indirect jobs over the next five years.”
The Commander in Chief pointed out that the SANDF conducted various maritime border safeguarding operations under Operation Corona, ensuring the safety and stability of South Africa’s maritime zones.
He also gave an update on Operation Thusano with the Cuban armed forces that involves the maintenance and repairing of the SANDF’s operational vehicle fleet.
“From inception in 2015, over 4,000 vehicles have 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.
With regard to the defence industry, Ramaphosa said the SANDF is “opening incredible opportunities for young people in both the public and private sectors.
“South Africa’s defence technology is globally sought after. Much of our technological capability shows that we are well positioned, through our armed forces, to participate in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This has established our defence sector as an important contributor to innovation in our economy.”
Ramaphosa noted that 2018 is the year of Nelson Mandela’s centenary and that he left South Africa a defence force that is disciplined and that protects South Africa’s integrity and supports peace and development initiatives on the African continent.
“When we look at our armed forces we see a manifestation of the South Africa that belongs to all of us, black and white, which our Constitution directs us to build.
“We dare not fail to appreciate how the peace we enjoy lives alongside the constant vigilance and readiness that enables you to keep us as safe as we are,” he told serving members of the military.
“Thank you heartily for your patriotism and for lending a hand in the renewal and development of our beloved country.
“As Commander-in-Chief of the South African National Defence Force, I will be prioritising my engagement with the Department of Defence.”
After a flypast, awarding of medals to SANDF members and his speech, Ramaphosa watched as thousands of soldiers and military bands from all four branches of the SANDF marched past and saluted.
This was followed by a mechanised column comprising hundreds of vehicles that showcased the SANDF’s capabilities, from military police motorcycles to main battle tanks and earthmoving equipment.
The event is seen as a good exercise of the SA National Defence Force’s logistic capabilities and also provides a platform to show off the various careers in the South African military. It was hosted by the Air Force this year.
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