President Ramaphosa showers praises on brave soldiers

By S Sgt Itumeleng Makhubela
Photos by L Cpl Jonathan Mogano and L Cpl Paul Mpangala

The people of Kimberley in the Northern Cape were left enchanted as the National Ceremonial Guard (NCG) band marched before their eyes to start off  the parade on the morning of 21 February during the Armed Forces Day at the Cenotaph World War monument.

This is the day proclaimed to observe and commemorate the lives of the members of the SA Native Labour Corps contingent who died when a troopship, SS Mendi sank off the English coast in 1917.

The Cenotaph in Kimberley itself carries significant history as a memorial to 400 of Kimberley men who died in the Great War (World War I) between 1914 and 1918. It is said to have been unveiled by four mothers, each of whom had lost either sons or a husband during the war.

The Commander-in-Chief, President Cyril Ramaphosa said it is a day on which South Africa remembers the bravery of soldiers prepared to fight in a war that was not theirs. “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 reminds us that blood was spilled by many of our people to guarantee us our freedom and dignity. 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.” He said.

The President felt the 2018 edition of the Armed Forces Day celebrations had a special meaning as they occur in a year when South Africa commemorates the centenary year of our icon and first Commander-in-Chief, President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. 

He said President Mandela oversaw the formation of the SANDF as a force that upholds the Constitution of the Republic in defence of all its people and left behind a disciplined SANDF that protects the country’s territorial integrity and supports peace and development initiatives on the African continent.

President Ramaphosa took stock of the effort made by the SANDF to alleviate unemployment, particularly in the SA Navy. “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.”

Underway is also Operation Thusano which is a departmental initiative with the Cuban armed forces that involves the maintenance and repairing of the SANDF operational vehicle fleet. From inception in 2015, over 4,000 vehicles have been repaired and several workshops in SANDF units revived. He said a total of 446 South Africans are apprentices and a further 395 have qualified as technicians through transfer of practical knowledge by the Cubans.

The President intends to hit the ground as he assured to prioritise engagement with Department of Defence. “As I mentioned in the State of the Nation Address, I will soon be visiting the leadership and management of our national departments to see how well we can work together to accelerate the imperatives of service delivery, training and job creation.”

You are 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.” He said.

President Ramaphosa said the defence industry is a sector where young people can exercise not just their physical capabilities, but their creativity and exercise skills across a broad range of endeavours.

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