President Cyril Ramaphosa has used the platform offered by Armed Forces Day to bring South Africans home at least nine times when the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) “has more than fulfilled its task of defending and protecting the country”.
Speaking in Mpumalanga’s provincial capital, Mbombela, Ramaphosa said he was proud of the country’s airmen and women, military doctors, sailors and soldiers, especially as he is the commander-in-chief of the SANDF.
Among the tasks highlighted by Ramaphosa during his speech at Mbombela Stadium were SANDF’s contribution to the COVID-19 pandemic, including Operation Notlela and a vaccination campaign; the violent unrest and looting last July; the Parliament fire with firefighters from the air base (AFB) Ysterplaat among the first responders; the involvement of South African military elements in Mozambique, on the one hand when a cyclone struck and on the other hand as part of the deployment of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to help combat Islamist insurgents; the continued deployment of air, infantry and military health elements of the SANDF to the United Nations mission in DR Congo; the work done by the SA Army Engineer Formation to clear the Vaal River and the construction by the same formation of much needed bridges in rural areas.
“As a people, we are reassured that whatever circumstances our nation faces, the SANDF will always be there,” Ramaphosa said, adding “at a time of great crisis, the sight of a member of the SANDF in uniform protecting us, restoring calm, gave reassurance at a time when many were afraid”.
“Their presence reminded us once again that we have an honorable armed forces who are sworn to serve and protect and never dishonor the cause of freedom,” said part of his tribute to the four services of the national defense force. “They are heroes in uniform – fallen and still standing – who ensure that South Africans can retire in peace at night knowing that the country is safe.”
On the challenges facing the SANDF, Ramaphosa said, “The military, like all other organs of state, has had to conduct its substantial operations in the face of extremely limited resources and a growing catalog of commitments.”
I commend the leadership of our military and all members of our armed forces for assuming their responsibilities even as we grapple with funding challenges that affect various defense programs and development activities.
“We are looking, within these constraints, for ways to better equip our defense force with the tools it needs to fulfill its mandate,” Ramaphosa said.