Pr0esident Cyril Ramaphosa says South Africa is proud of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) which is an enduring symbol of the country’s rainbow nation, that includes in its ranks both men and women, from all race groups.
Speaking at this year’s Armed Forces Day event held in Polokwane in Limpopo on Friday, President Ramaphosa said South Africa looks to the SANDF to assist in meeting the country’s obligations with regards to supporting continental peace and security.
“As a continent, we have set milestones towards the attainment of a better and safer continent for all Africans, but our progress remains mixed. Conflict continues in several African countries, undermining our collective efforts to achieve peace and security.
“In our quest to Silence the Guns, we acknowledge the enduring challenges of armed conflict in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, in North Africa, in the Sahel, in the Horn of Africa and in the Great Lakes region.
“We count on the SANDF as an organ mandated by the AU and the UN respectively to discharge the important responsibility of promoting peace,” President Ramaphosa said.
He commended the SANDF soldiers for staying true despite the many challenges they face.
“These men and women do remarkable work in safeguarding our borders and in assisting the South African Police Service with crime prevention. We commend them, knowing that the vast stretch of our border requires far more resources on the ground.
“As a nation, we owe a great debt of appreciation to our National Defence Force for being not just a fighting force, but a developmental force. Across our country, we have seen the SANDF render essential services through the deployment of health professionals at public health facilities that are in crisis,” President Ramaphosa said.
He said he is pleased that the programme for the 2020 Armed Forces Day included a military careers showcase for young people.
“I hope that young people who wish to develop themselves and grow South Africa will embrace these opportunities through which they will make an important contribution to the security and sustainability of our nation,” the President said.
He commenced the day with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Polokwane Municipal Gardens memorial of the sinking of the SS Mendi.
Armed Forces Day
Armed Forces Day seeks to expand public understanding of the role of the SANDF in the life of the nation and to demonstrate through live simulations of military action the capability of the Army, Navy, Air Force and South African Medical Health Service.
The activities have been taking place at various locations around Polokwane from 14-19 February 2020 and have included static displays of military equipment, a career village for prospective recruits, arena events, sports events including sports clinics and a fun run.
The celebration of Armed Forces Day included a capabilities demonstration as well as a night shoot and a military parade.
Armed Forces Day is held annually on 21 February in commemoration of the sinking of the SS Mendi steamship on 21 February 1917, one of South African’s worst tragedies of the First World War (1914-1918).
A total of 616 black South African personnel died when the SS Mendi steamship sank on its way to France.
Other activities over the weekend saw a 5km and 10km fun walk and run on 15 February and an inter-faith service on Sunday, 16 February.
Armed Forces Day celebrations will continue until 22 February when military personnel from outside Limpopo are expected to depart the province.
The weeklong programme featured career exhibitions where young people had the opportunity to explore various careers in the SANDF.