Daily Archives: February 21, 2016

Address by the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, His Excellency President Jacob Zuma, during the Armed Forces Day celebration, Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, Port Elizabeth

The Premier of the Eastern Cape, Mr Phumulo Masualle,

The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakulaand all Ministers present

The Executive Mayor of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality, Dr Danny Jordaan,

Deputy Ministers, MECs

MPs and MPLs, councillors,

Secretary for Defence and the

Chief of the South African National Defence Force,

Generals, Admirals, Officers, Warrant Officers,

Non-Commissioned Officers,

Military Veterans and all veterans of the liberation struggle,

All Members of our Armed Forces,

Members on Parade

Distinguished Guests,

Members of the Diplomatic Corps

Distinguished guests,

Fellow South Africans

It is my singular honour to host this fourth celebration of our Armed Forces Day, as Commander-in-Chief of our country’s armed forces.

We dedicate 21 February each year to celebrating our armed forces.

This annual celebration reflects the confidence that we as a nation and a country have in the South African National Defence Force (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.

The celebration of Armed Forces Day also enables ordinary citizens to know more about their defence force.

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 defence force 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.

During the past two weeks, members of the public here 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 aircrafts participated in this celebration during this period.

I am informed that the first day of viewing the Navy Vessels which were 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.

They have seen them tending to the sick in hospitals where there is a shortage and emergencies, they have seen them providing water or using the various technical skills in the military to build bridges and other needed infrastructure in rural areas.

They 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.

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.


The primary objective of the defence force 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 members of the South African National Defence Force, 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.

We know that our Armed Forces occupy a special space in the hearts of our people. This is why we have set aside one special day to publicly show appreciation to our Armed Forces for their invaluable and selfless service to our nation.

Compatriots and friends

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.

Since many of these sources of insecurity transcend state borders, collective action must be undertaken within multilateral organisations to provide adequate responses and lasting solution.

We play our role mandated mainly by the African Union with the support of the United Nations, 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.

We thank South Africans for supporting this noble contribution of their defence force.

Given this new African mandate, members of our National Defence Force need to be equipped with skills which give them versatility in peacekeeping operations. They should be able to utilise these skills when they return home.

This requires that we be ready at all times. We must 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.

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.

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.

One of the key demonstrations of the success of South Africa’s participation in peacekeeping missions, is the recent appointment by the United Nations(UN), of our very own 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.

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.

Fellow South Africans,

Our Armed Forces Day celebration coincides with the anniversary of the fateful sinking of the SS Mendi vessel along the English Channel on the same day in 1917.

Next year, 2017 will mark the centenary of the sinking on the SS Mendi, a huge milestone in our military, as we remember our fallen heroes.

The sinking of Mendi resulted in the death of 600 black soldiers who had enlisted as a labour corps in the First World War.

They were treated with disdain and their role and contribution were not valued at all by the racist colonialists of the time.

In this regard, as we celebrate the Armed Forces Day, we recognise both our history as well as the future of our National Defence Force.

We have built a defence force that belongs to all, in memory of those who died tragically in defence of this country and its people and in particular, in the quest for the new democratic order that we live in.

All members of the Defence Force today are our sons, daughters, brothers and sisters who come from the same villages and urban surroundings as we do. It is a Defence Force that belongs to all of the people of South Africa.

This is a key achievement of our hard own freedom and democracy.

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.

We salute our Armed Forces for their heroic role in defending their country and people.

We salute the South African National Defence Force!

We salute the people’s defence force!

I thank you.

Source: The Presidency Republic Of South Africa