Spare a thought for our troops

My heart is bleeding as I write this opinion piece. I don’t know where to start. I am still in pain as I think of my fellow countrymen in uniform who lost their lives while on duty.

In March 2013, we lost 36 South African troops in the Central African Republic (CAR). This year marks 5 years since the tragic incident, although it feels like it happened yesterday.

As a nation and patriotic citizens, we must never forget the troops we lost, because since the dawn of our democracy, we have never lost so many troops in one incident on a mission in a foreign country. One wonders how their families are coping.

We have so many men and women serving our country with honour while deployed in various parts of the continent. They sacrifice their lives out there to execute the mandate given to them by the South African government.

Being a soldier is not easy. Every time they leave the Bloemfontein Military Base, they don’t know if they will come back home to see their families or not. They leave behind their families for months on end to serve in difficult environments. They leave the comfort of their homes to stay in camps or foreign military bases.

When the news of the attack broke, the media and opposition parties had a field day. They somehow forgot that the South African government has always sent troops on different missions in the continent in pursuit of a peaceful and stable Africa. We continue to have troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Just recently, the South African government withdrew its troops from Sudan, although the reasons remain unclear. 

I have so much respect for the men and women in uniform as they continue to fly the South African flag high on the continent. We should also spare a thought for our diplomats stationed all over the world who have also left their families to represent the country. The incident even forced us to close our embassy in the CAR for a while. It was only reopened last year to continue to strengthen diplomatic ties between the two countries. 

Let us respect our soldiers and understand that they work under difficult conditions. We have those who are patrolling our borders too. Our soldiers should be well taken care of, as without them, our country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would be at risk.

Let us not only celebrate Human Rights Day this month, but let us also remember our gallant countrymen who died in the Central African Republic. It is important for us to have South African flags in our houses. Let us go out and buy them as we remember our troops who have died in the line of duty.

- Rebone Tau is an ANC Ward 42 BEC member. She writes in her personal capacity.

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