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President Ramaphosa salutes SA Armed Forces


President Cyril Ramaphosa has hailed the contribution of the South African Defence Force for serving the country with distinction during a “difficult, demanding and unprecedented” time in the country’s history.

President Ramaphosa was addressing Armed Forces Day in Mpumalanga on Monday – a day which commemorates the sinking of the troopship SS Mendi in the English Channel on 21 February 1917 and the death of more than 600 men of the SA Native Labour Corps who were aboard when it was struck by the SS Darro.

“For your role as the SANDF in preventing the loss of more lives to the pandemic, in working with law enforcement agencies and communities to end the unrest, and in helping civilians in the troubled regions of our continent, your country thanks you. For remaining ever vigilant and ever ready to answer the call of duty, we thank you.

“We honour you and we salute you,” he said.

The President explained the role that the SANDF has played over the past two years where the country has hit some turbulent times.

“It is now two years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The SANDF was there, assisting with the implementation and maintenance of the National State of Disaster.

“It is seven months since parts of South Africa experienced the worst unrest in our democracy’s history. The SANDF was there, assisting law enforcement agencies to restore order and protect key economic infrastructure.

“And when our Parliament was engulfed in fire at the beginning of this year, it was our personnel from Air Force Base Ysterplaat Military Aviation Rescue and Firefighting Services who were part of the first responders to douse the flames,” he said.

On the continent, the SANDF has also been participated in humanitarian aid and military missions in Mozambique and peacekeeping in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“According to our Constitution, the primary objective of the armed forces is to defend and protect the Republic. The SANDF has more than lived up to this task, particularly over the past year, when our country endured great tribulations.

“At all these moments of uncertainty, crisis and very real danger for our country, for our neighbours and for our continent Africa, the SANDF has been there,” President Ramaphosa said.

The President paid tribute to soldiers who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

“Today, we pay homage to Corporal Tebogo Radebe, who was killed in Cabo Delgado late last year during a deployment as part of the SADC Mission in Mozambique. We remember all our soldiers who have fallen in the line of duty in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and Sudan.

“Their deaths remind us that our freedom, our way of life and the peace that we enjoy as a country comes at a price,” he said.

President Ramaphosa also acknowledged that the armed forces are “facing many challenges” in the face of the country’s limited resources.

“I commend the leadership of our military and all members of our armed forces for fulfilling their responsibilities even as we grapple with funding challenges that affect various defence programmes and development activities.

“We are looking, within these constraints, at ways to better resource our defence force with the tools they need to fulfil their mandate,” he said.