The main focus for 2016 Armed Forces Day is peacekeeping in the African continent. South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is always available to take part in peacekeeping missions in Africa because South Africa is passionate about peace on the continent. President Jacob Zuma said this in a statement on Sunday.
“National security includes the safeguarding of South Africa and its people against a wide range of threats, many of which are non-military in nature,” he said at the annual Armed Forces Day in Port Elizabeth.
By the power vested in him as commander-in-chief of the SANDF, Zuma said because many of these sources of insecurity surpassed state borders, collective action had to be taken within multilateral organisations to provide adequate responses and lasting solutions to the sufferings of Africans.
“We play our role mandated mainly by the African Union (AU) with the support of the United Nations (UN), and participate in peace missions within the continent. We do this because we want to see peace and stability in our continent. We want to see the end of suffering of women and children in Africa. We want to see the end of the flight of Africans from their countries because of wars and conflicts.
“We are passionate about peace and that is why our armed forces are always ready to participate in peacekeeping missions. The African Union has taken a resolution that guns must be silenced in Africa by 2020. South Africa is playing its part meaningfully towards the achievement of that goal,” Zuma said.
Going by the new African mandate, members of the SANDF had to be equipped with skills which gave them a wide variety of skills to participate in peacekeeping operations. They should be able to use these skills when they returned to SA.
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This requires us to have light, mobile forces and the ability to deploy and sustain such forces over considerable distances in remote areas, and into hostile and underdeveloped areas. Above all be ready at all times.
“We must also be able to cope with an escalation in hostilities. These are all aspects of the new defence force as envisaged by the Defence Review 2014,” he said.
“2017 will mark the centenary of the sinking of the SS Mendi, a huge milestone in our military as we remember our fallen heroes. The sinking of the Mendi resulted in the death of 600 black soldiers enlisted as a labour corp in the First World War. They were treated with disdain and their role and contribution was not valued at all by the racist colonialist’s of the time. As we celebrate Armed Forces Day we recognise both our history as well as the future,” he said.
Spectators and guests in their numbers crowded the Port Elizabeth beachfront where SANDF including the special forces and SA Navy members treated them to a mock land and sea rescue. Kings Beach was remarkably turned into a mock mini war zone with soldiers demonstrating their skills on the beach for all to see amid loud explosions.
Hawk and Gripen fighter aircraft and attack helicopters made several formation flypasts above the gathering.
Other drills included two inflatable boats being dropped by parachute and soldiers “para-dropping” to swim to specific targets graced the occasion.
During the Armed Forces Day, Zuma presented the “Mandela Medallion Gold” medals to the doctors who took care of former president Nelson Mandela during his last days.