President Cyril Ramaphosa says the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has been essential to national efforts to curb the spread of Coronavirus.
“Through the invaluable work you have done and continue to do during this pandemic, you have demonstrated that the SANDF can be relied on in good and bad times, in times of peace and times of war, in times of stability and prosperity, and in times of crisis,” President Ramaphosa said on Sunday.
Addressing this year’s Armed Forces Day virtually, the President saluted soldiers who have succumbed to COVID-19, saying they are heroes who died in the line of duty.
“We owe them a debt of gratitude and convey our deepest condolences to their loved ones. We honour these men and women in uniform, who continue to put their lives on the line to defend our nation, and to contribute to peacekeeping and peacebuilding on our continent,” President Ramaphosa said.
He thanked soldiers who helped to maintain law and order in the early days of the lockdown.
“The SANDF undertook mercy missions to repatriate our citizens abroad, who were fearful and wanted to be reunited with their families. The SA Army Engineers Corps helped deliver clean drinking water to vulnerable communities.
“What touched us perhaps the most as the nation was the sight of SANDF members helping the elderly to carry their groceries, walking alongside young people making their way home, and many other instances that showed our armed forces at their best.
“The SA Air Force and the Logistics Division managed the distribution of much needed supplies to deployed forces. The South African Military Health Service deployed its personnel in all provinces, where they worked in hotspots, and helped set up field hospitals and quarantine sites,” President Ramaphosa said.
The President said the SANDF must continue to be a disciplined organisation so it can function optimally.
“We know that the Defence Force will not accept any actions by its members that violate the laws of our country or the rights of our people. We know that where there are transgressions, it will act against those responsible.”
President Ramaphosa said SANDF members have an invaluable role to play in nation building.
“You are not just armed forces that exist to defend our nation; you are foremost forces of development and progress.”
Armed Forces Day is held annually on 21 Februay to commemorate the sinking of South African troopship SS Mendi in 1917 in the English Channel during World War One.