The Department of Defence (DOD) today marked ten years of peacekeeping with a parade in Bloemfontein. Taking the salute was President Jacob Zuma in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the South African National Defence Force.
Celebrations commenced with a colourful parade in 1 South African Infantry Battalion unit lines, and concluded with a march past at the Bloemfontein City Hall.
In his address to the parade Zuma said today “is a day of great celebration for our country, as we mark ten years of the highly successful participation in peace support operations…”
“Members of the National Defence Force have come a long way to make a difference in various war-torn parts of our continent and beyond,” he added.
“Members on parade, you have been excellent ambassadors of our country in the quest for peace. In difficult circumstances you have earned yourselves a place in the hearts of many; your selfless efforts have provided hope to the disillusioned.”
He added that SA cannot survive in isolation, as its economic development and security is linked to the continent’s stability.
“In pursuit of this quest, the SANDF therefore will continue to be deployed on various peacekeeping missions to assist in the resolution of conflict and in strengthening democracy in a number of African states.”
Zuma noted that the “mission has not been all plain sailing.
“We remain conscious of the hardships that continue to compromise our operations, such as malaria and attacks by those who work against peace and stability,” he said.
“There are those who believe that the intensification of democracy in any country reduces the security threat, and that there is no need to invest in defence in democracies such as ours. This is a mistaken view.
“The existence of conflict in many regions in the world indicates that democracy within one’s borders is not a guarantee of national security. Nations have to invest in their security, and we will not be found wanting in that regard; for, the instability in our continent presents a direct national security threat to us.
“We see no contradiction between democracy and a powerful and highly capable National Defence Force,” Zuma continued.
“Once again, let me emphasise that I am very proud of the achievements of our soldiers and their commitment to protecting the integrity of our country and its people. Keep up the good work. You make us proud to be South African.”
From small beginnings in 1999, SA is now one of the largest contributors to peacekeeping missions on the African continent and peace support operations have become a key element of foreign policy.
South Africa’s involvement in peace missions began in September 1999, when Colonel Hans Swart became the country’s first official peacekeeper with his deployment as Capital Liaison Officer in Kampala in support of the peace process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
This deployment, plus those of the thousands of South African men and women that followed, took place in accordance with the SANDF’s “Military Strategic Objective to Promote Peace and Stability in the Region and the Continent.”
South Africa’s participation in peace missions is also governed by The White Paper on South Africa’s Participation in International Peace Missions, which was approved by the Cabinet in 1998.
In terms of this White Paper, Peace Missions include “participation in preventative diplomacy, peacemaking, peacekeeping operations, peace enforcement, peace building, humanitarian assistance and humanitarian intervention”.
The foundation for the country’s involvement in peace missions was laid in April 1999, during South Africa’s hosting of the second South African Development Community (SADC) peacekeeping capacity building exercise, called Exercise Blue Crane.
Shortly hereafter the SANDF presented its first military observers (MILOBS) training course in anticipation of this role.
Pic: President Jacob Zuma of South Africa