21 February, each year, is
dedicated to celebrating the Armed Forces Day. This year,
the day started with the community of New Brighton coming
out in numbers to honour those who perished in the fateful
sinking of the SS Mendi vessel along the English Channel on
the same day in 1917.
The sinking of SS Mendi
resulted in the death of approximately 600 black soldiers
who had enlisted as a labour corps in the First World War.
They were treated with disdain while their role and
contribution were not valued at all by the racist
colonialists of the time. Next year, 2017, will mark the
centenary of the sinking on the SS Mendi, a huge milestone
in the military, as it remembers its fallen heroes. In this
regard, on Armed Forces Day, history as well as the future
of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is
During the past two weeks,
members of the public in Port Elizabeth have witnessed a
public display in the form of navy ships, military static
display, night shooting demonstrations, capability
demonstrations and the community musical concerts by the
SANDF. All the above activities were aimed at educating and
creating awareness to the public about the SANDF’s role,
function and capabilities. More than one thousand SANDF
members and over a hundred vehicles and aircraft
participated in the celebrations.
President Jacob Zuma, who
officiated the Armed Forces Day Parade said, “I am informed
that the first day of viewing the Navy vessels which was
open to the public, saw a massive crowd of Nelson Mandela
Bay, with citizens coming out in droves to see their vessel
alongside the Port Elizabeth harbour.
This is indeed good to realise that our people have a keen
interest to know more about the SANDF. Indeed, the citizens
of this country have always been proud of their Defence
Force since 1994. South Africans know that their defence
force does not only protect the borders of our country. Our
people have seen their defence force assisting communities
in times of disasters such as floods”.
The celebration of Armed Forces Day also enabled ordinary
citizens to know more about their defence force. This was
resembled in a mini warzone, where SAAF aircraft were
swooping low, maneouving and demonstrating the Air Force
capability, and other three arms of service the biggest
display of capability that left the audience awestruck and
proud. That was evident in their ululations, whistles and
applauses, some even shed a tear and expressed how proud
they were to be South Africans.
The Commander-in-Chief expressed that, “This annual
celebration reflects the confidence that we as a nation and
a country have in the South African SANDF. This occasion is
also a platform that enables the SANDF to showcase its
latest military equipment and technologies that are used to
protect the Republic.
Our military also uses this day to demonstrate the military
combat readiness of the SANDF against any threats to the
sovereignty of the Republic of South Africa. It also opens
up the Defence Force to our youth, so that they can find out
about careers that are available in their country’s Defence
Force, and help us build the military of the future. We
trust that the people of Nelson Mandela Bay and surroundings
have used the opportunity in the past two weeks to know more
about the SANDF”.
Mr Boitshoko Senne, who works at Armscor couldn’t help but
express how impressed he was with the dedication and zeal
that the members who were involved in the event showed. “We
have seen them tending to the sick in hospitals where there
is a shortage and emergencies, we have seen them providing
water or using the various technical skills in the military
to build bridges and other needed infrastructure in rural
We have also seen the Defence Force assisting the police in
those rare occasions that require a maximum response to
crime, for example during Operation Fiela”.
The President gave a thumbs up to the legacy programme that
was spearheaded by the Minister of Defence and Military
Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and opined, “Right here in
Nelson Mandela Bay, our soldiers have demonstrated their
respect to the senior citizens of our country. They
renovated three old age homes here in Port Elizabeth, the
Ekuphumuleni Old age home, Bethelsdorp and Gelvan Park Home
villages. We trust that our senior citizens appreciate the
gesture from their grandsons and granddaughters in the South
African National Defence Force.
In 2014, in Bloemfontein on the same event, I challenged
both the Secretary for Defence and the Chief of the SANDF to
open up the Defence Force and inform our people about the
work of the Defence Force.
That challenge still stands. I would like to see more and
more interaction between the SANDF and our people. It should
not just end here and today. The SANDF belongs to the people
of South Africa. It serves our people, and they need to know
more about their Defence Force”.
Amaza Bomvana from Zwide, an
elderly woman who has been at the home for the past 2 years
expressed how grateful they were that the Minister thought
of them in her busy schedule. She said that the fire that
caught their home nearly damaged everything and that they
were almost left destitude. She remembered that fateful day
like it was yesterday, she said: they were grateful to the
Defence Force and the Department of Social Development for
dedicating a day to spend with them. “We hope that God can
grant you more light and strength as you continue to go
above and beyond the call of duty. Our children have made a
commitment to go and visit your stalls at the fan park and
we hope they will also become soldiers and reduce the
responsibilities that we carry”.
After explaining the primary
objective of the Defence Force, which is to defend and
protect the Republic, its territorial integrity and its
people in accordance with the Constitution and the
principles of international law regulating the use of force,
the President emphasized that, “Members of the SANDF, must
at all times remain absolutely loyal to the imperative to
defend the law and the Constitution, serving as a
professional force as required by our Constitution. This is
what we require of our soldiers.
They must be ready to defend
their compatriots and the sovereignty of this land, and
committed to the mission of maintaining peace and stability
in their country and promoting peace in the region, Africa
and the world at large.
“The mandate of the Defence Force by the Constitution
requires our Armed Forces to be imbued with the highest
level of discipline in the execution of their duties. Our
soldiers must be skilled, healthy, fit and highly
disciplined military professionals. They must possess a high
level of morale and sense of duty. That is the character of
a soldier we are building in the SANDF. In return, our
soldiers shall earn the respect and gratitude of the people
of South Africa who remain the solid pillars of support
behind our Armed Forces”.
The newly completed Defence Review 2014, which is now ready
for implementation speaks to a modern defence force, with a
modern soldier and maps out the direction defence will be
taking for the next 30 years.
Our soldiers have continued to perform exceptionally well in
these peace missions and have done the country proud”.
He singled out one of the key demonstrations of the success
of South Africa’s participation in peacekeeping missions, as
the recent appointment by the United Nations (UN),
Lieutenant-General Derrick Mbuyiselo Mgwebi as the Force
Commander of the twenty thousand strong United Nations
Mission in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of
the Congo, called MONUSCO.
The President said, “This is the largest United Nations
Peace Support Operation in the world and on the continent.
The appointment of General Mgwebi is a clear indication of
the confidence that the UN has in South Africa and the role
and contribution we have made in peacekeeping in the
continent and beyond. The appointment is a further
recognition of his leadership qualities in many missions
that he has led abroad. It is a major gain for the UN to
have such a decorated and operationally experienced officer
in charge of MONUSCO. This appointment is therefore not only
an honour to General Mgwebi personally, but also to South
Africa as a whole.
As we celebrate Armed Forces Day today, we should pause as a
nation to remember our men and women who have fallen in the
line of duty.
On behalf of the South African Government and all the people
of our country, I express my deepest condolences to the
families and friends of our departed soldiers either on the
home front or in far-away lands on peace-keeping missions.
May their souls rest in peace! Let us celebrate and
acknowledge our soldiers who keep our land, sea and air safe
from any intruder”.
It wouldnt be sempiternal if it werent for selfies.
Open Day ignited interest from all age groups, the children explained the cockpit as a wonder
Pres Jacob Zuma used the Armed Forces Day as a platform to honour those who distinguished themselves in line of duty.
Siyandiza's CO Queen Lehlage explaining how their exhibition will focus on at PE.
The hunger to enter the fan park on open day made them look outside the windows.
The question of whether a passport is needed when one takes a military aircraft was answered with loads of laughter..JPG
The sea breeze gave those on parade a new zeal as they saluted the Commander in Chief, President Jacob Zuma.
They were as hopeful as the break of day to make the cut of those will fly.