President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday commended members of the defence force for going the extra mile in their service to the country.
Addressing soldiers who gathered at Richards Bay to commemorate Armed Forces Day, held annually on February 21, Ramaphosa said the soldiers were performing more than their core duties of defending the country’s sovereignty.
While our armed forces are always on guard to defend our hard-earned sovereignty and constitutional democratic order, they do much more than that. They actively contribute to the social and economic development of our country.
“They are to be found on rescue missions in times of disaster, building bridges where a desperate need exists and rehabilitating rivers from the effects of pollution. They have time and time again shown that they are a force for good and an integral part of all progressive humanity.”
The armed forces, who performed military drills, comprised of members of the navy and air force.
While joining the armed forces is considered an act of patriotism, it comes with some dangers as soldiers risk losing their lives during wars and other missions.
In 1917, hundreds of black First World War volunteers died when the SS Mendi, bound for France, sank off the Isle of Wight after colliding with another ship.
President pays tribute to those who lost their lives
Ramaphosa, who is also the armed forces’ Commander in Chief, paid tribute to those who lost their lives during the SS Mendi accident.
On this day, we remember and pay tribute to all our fallen men and women in uniform who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
Among these, we remember those who tragically lost their lives when the SS Mendi sank on this day 106 years ago in the English Channel during the First World War.
Members of the current SA armed forces, Ramaphosa said, had demonstrated the same courage shown by the soldiers who perished during the SS Mendi collision.
As we mark this day, we appreciate that our armed forces are continuing the pursuit of the ideal for which their departed predecessors lived.
They have picked up the spears of our fallen heroes and heroines and continue the effort to give our people lasting peace, security and stability.
Tuesday’s commemoration was also attended by Zulu King, Misuzulu kaZwelithini, and a host of government leaders.