SA playing its part in goal of silencing guns in Africa by 2020‚ says Zuma
South Africa is playing is playing a meaningful part in helping the African Union to achieve its goal of silencing guns on the continent by 2020‚ President Jacob Zuma says.
Speaking in his role as commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces at an Armed Forces Day celebration in Port Elizabeth‚ Zuma said that South Africa was passionate about peace which was why its armed forces were always ready to participate in peacekeeping missions.
“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‚” he said.
Given this new African mandate‚ members of the National Defence Force (SANDF) needed to be equipped with skills that gave them versatility in peacekeeping operations. They should also 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‚” Zuma stated.
He added that the country’s soldiers had continued to perform exceptionally well in these peace missions and had 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‚” Zuma said.
Paying tribute to the country’s fallen soldiers‚ he noted that the Armed Forces Day celebration coincided 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‚” he added.
Zuma said the military used Armed Forces Day – which fell on February 21 each year - to demonstrate the military combat readiness of the SANDF against any threats to South Africa’s sovereignty.
More than one thousand SANDF members and over a hundred vehicles and aircrafts participated in this year’s celebrations.