From floods to strikes: Ramaphosa honours SANDF, full of pride

2019-02-21 16:53

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday paid tribute to the country's armed forces and the many ways in which they helped those in need.

In Cape Town for National Armed Forces Day, he first laid a wreath at the SS Mendi Memorial on the Lower Campus of the University of Cape Town.

This was to commemorate the troops who died when the vessel sank in the English Channel on this day in 1917.

"The men who died on the SS Mendi and others of the Native Labour Corps who served in the trenches in France did not enlist to further the advance of imperialism," he said in a speech prepared for delivery.

"They volunteered at a time when the 1913 Land Act had cut a devastating swathe across black communities in this country, and they hoped with their service to get a chance to provide for their families. They also saw it as a chance to play their part in defence of the freedom and preservation of humankind."

He said the men were heroes and every citizen was duty-bound to tell their children about their bravery and courage.

Ramaphosa then presented medals to some members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) during a military parade in Table View.

He honoured veterans and those still in uniform, as well as their families.

"You have given us the best of your men and women, who left you in the bloom and enthusiasm of youth, and who returned wiser, disciplined and stronger," he said.

Ramaphosa acknowledged the diverse roles that the military played.

"We all recall the iconic image of a young mother, clutching her newborn baby Rosita as she was pulled to the safety of an SANDF chopper during the Mozambican floods of 2000. We also recall with pride the deployment of the South African Military Health Service across hospitals in Gauteng in 2017 after industrial action nearly paralysed services in the province," he said.

A year later, military health staff helped out at Mahikeng Hospital in the North West during a longstanding strike.

At present, the SANDF is in the Vaal to contain a sewage spillage at the severely polluted Vaal River.

READ:  R240m cash injection to fix polluted Vaal River, but it still isn't enough

Ramaphosa said the SANDF was also involved in international peacekeeping missions in Africa.

"Whether it is engaging in anti-piracy patrols in the Mozambique Channel, battling veld fires in the Cape, doing border patrols as part of Operation Corona or attending to critical infrastructure, our national defence force is a source of enduring pride."

Climate change and extreme weather conditions meant the SANDF would be kept busy with humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, he added. 

"It is also the responsibility of our armed forces to guard our country's borders against the infiltration of transnational criminal syndicates, the flow of contraband, human trafficking, undocumented migrants and other illicit activities."

He valued their contribution and wished all troops strength and courage.

Read more on:    sandf  |  cyril rama­phosa
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