Zuma honours armed forces in PE
President Jacob Zuma joined the South African National Defence Force in Port Elizabeth on Sunday as they celebrated National Armed Forces Day with a mass military parade.
Zuma said with the completed defence review, the SANDF will have modern soldiers and newly mapped directions.
“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 said 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... 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.”
Zuma said the Armed Forces Day celebration coincides with the anniversary of the sinking of the SS Mendi vessel in the English Channel in 1917, which resulted in the deaths of 600 black soldiers.
“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...we recognise both our history as well as the future of our National Defence Force,” he said.
Zuma expressed condolences to the families and friends of fallen soldiers either on the home front or in far-away lands on peacekeeping missions.
More than a thousand SANDF members and over a hundred vehicles and aircraft participated in the celebrations. The public witnessed displays of navy ships, military static displays, night shooting demonstrations, capability demonstrations and community musical concerts by the SANDF.
Zuma said residents came in their droves on the first day of viewing navy vessels in the Port Elizabeth harbour. The SANDF also renovated three old age homes during its two-week stay in Port Elizabeth.