A community of struggle veterans receive a due recognition for their sacrifices
By: Kgabo Mashamaite
In one of the historic moments and the first government initiatives to honour the former Non Statutory Force members, at least 74 former Umkhonto Wesizwe Military (MK) freedom fighters were presented with medals by State President Jacob Zuma during a Military Veterans parade on 02 August 2012 at AFB Bloemspruit.
The aim of the event was to honour and pay tribute to the community of Military Veterans for their contribution towards the liberation struggle against apartheid. This is the culmination of many tributes to all military veterans from all former Non Statutory Forces as planned by the government later this year, in recognition of their sacrifices towards the liberation of this country.
During his keynote address, president Zuma said that the gesture was in line with the constitutional obligation of the state to honour those suffered injustice and endless torture at the hands of the apartheid regime.
“This event is one but many of the government’s initiative to appreciate the sacrifices made by the gallant men and women who dared to challenge the system by turning their backs on their lifestyles, sacrificing their youth and separated from their families for us to enjoy the freedom we have today. For many, their service did not end when they hang up their uniform in 1994 but continued to be active for their country. As we confer medals to the founders of the MK and Commanders who distinguished themselves in different categories in war campaigns in Rhodesia such as the Luthuli Detachment, Wanki and the Sipolilo missions, we do so as we also pay tribute to the fallen sons and daughters who lost their lives in the struggle of liberation, freedom and democracy in South Africa. It is also heart-warming to see so many veterans who graced the event, as some of them may have been forgotten because the rest of the country is enjoying the freedom you fought for so hard.” Said President Zuma.
The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula promised the military veterans about the government’s commitment to assist whenever possible in bringing the mortal remains of some freedom fighters buried in the country of exile.
“Even if the logistics and the protocols around the exhumation and the transportation of the remains of cadres to our country will always present us with some challenges, we hope to will eventually bring some to their country of birth, so that their beloved ones can bury them with dignity. This is also in line with the resolution taken during the ANC National Policy conference recently.” Minister Mapisa-Nqakula assured the public.
The Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Mr Thabang Makwetla, urged the members of the public not to forget the contribution made by the military veterans to the freedom of this country.
Among the medals presented include, three categories of platinum class medals, for the founding members of Umkhonto Wesizwe who distinguished themselves on courageous leadership, class II for the National High Command and those who served life sentences with them on Robben Island after the Rivonia trial, Class III to those members who were in Regional Command Structures of MK, who distinguished themselves by their daring acts of valour under perilous conditions and withstanding the wrath f apartheid state, Gold medal for bravery and Bronze for those members who executed acts of outstanding bravery in battle and for the success of their mission having no regard for direct danger to their own lives in the struggle for liberation.
Some of the recipients include, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki (received on his behalf by Col Fezeka Mabona, OC SA Military Health Service Nursing College), Mr Andrew Mlangeni, the late Mr Joe Modise, Mr Dennis Goldberg, the late Chris Hani (receive by his widow, Mrs Limpho Hani), Mr Ronnie Kasrils and Cmdr Ike Maphotho, among others.