Saluting the first of a democratic SA
July has been earmarked to honour the father of our nation Nelson Mandela. We in the Department of Defence would also like to join millions of South Africans to reflect on the teachings of the first Commander-in-Chief of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).
One of the most enduring heritages that Madiba bequeathed on us was national reconciliation, particularly between the different racial groups who had been systematically divided by a myriad of apartheid laws.
The sharp divisions were most pronounced in the battlefield where the old South African Defence Force (SADF) was engaged in a war to liquidate the liberation armies, thus suppressing the people’s quest for freedom, democracy and justice.
The integration process that saw the amalgamation of the SADF, the former homeland armies, the Transkei Defence Force, Bophuthatswana Defence Force, Venda Defence Force and Ciskei Defence Force – and the liberation armies – Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) and the Azanian People’s Liberation Army (APLA), was the highlight of the national reconciliation project.
In the new SANDF, former enemies worked together to protect the territorial integrity of South Africa and ensure the safety of its citizens.
More than anybody else, Mandela navigated the peace process and the subsequent integration of the armies with precision and delicate approach of a brain surgeon.
Today we have a united Defence Force, all because of his efforts to unite South Africans and rally them behind the national flag. Madiba made us to believe that united, we can conquer anything. He made us believe in our rainbow vision – that we can be united in our diversity.
When negative forcers try to whip racial tensions, we should be quick to remind them Mandela cherished an ideal of a free, democratic and non-racial society and that he was prepared to die for this ideal.
As the first president of post-apartheid South Africa, Mandela gave us a new vision.
He made us to be good neighbours. Whereas apartheid South Africa was a regional bully that invaded borders in pursuit of freedom fighters, also attacking countries seen to be supporting the Struggle for liberation, the new South Africa under Mandela exported peace to other African countries.
There was a realisation that South Africa cannot afford to be an island of peace while wars were raging in other parts of the continent.
Today, the SANDF is part of a multinational
force that is helping the people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and other countries to be stable and repel the negative forces.
As a country, we have much to celebrate the role that South Africa continues to play and the successes we score to bring about peace and stability in support of the continent’s collective efforts to create the necessary conditions for human development and betterment of all our people, as part of the Africa agenda. The role of the SANDF, recognised as a mid-wife for peace in the continent, has been integral in these efforts.
We are deeply encouraged by the levels of support and appreciation shown by our people towards the work of the SANDF.
After Mandela had left the presidential office, he dedicated huge amount of time and effort to help the warring factions in Burundi to end the conflict that had claimed the lives of thousands of people.
Our presence in that country is part of the vision to create a stable and peaceful Africa, which is a pre-requisite for economic development and prosperity.
Mandela dedicated his life to create equal opportunities for all South Africans regardless of race, colour or creed.
As the Department Defence, we are proud to state that we have fully transformed the department to create space for young people from all racial groups. The SANDF has become a training ground for highly skilled careers that were previously the exclusive reserve of a minority. We can now be home for top professionals in various careers including medicine and engineering.
The SANDF has become an employer of choice to many of our young people who access training in careers that were previously reserved for the minority.
Our Defence Force has been a leading player in the creation of peace and security in maritime, thus creating a conducive environment for a thriving ocean economy with a huge possibility of creating jobs for our people.
The transformation of our Defence Force did not just mean making the force an effective force to promote peace in the region but also to make the force to contribute to economic progress during peace time.
We are involved in some of the following:
Political, economic and military co-operation with other states, including the development of a common security regime, regional defence co-operation and the pursuit of confidence and security building measures (CSBMs) in Southern Africa. The prevention, management and
resolution of conflict through nonviolent means, including diplomacy and conflict resolution through the SADC Organ, the AU Peace and Security Council and the UN Security Council.
The use of force, or the threat of the use of force, as a legitimate measure of last resort when political and other interventions have been exhausted.
The SANDF is already involved in peacetime activities on matters that impact on the lives of South Africans on a daily basis.
The SANDF is training several members of its reserve force in a collaborative effort with some of South Africa’s provinces in courses on water purification and fire extinguishing.
The reserve force members are working in those provinces as Community Development Practitioners in order to assist provincial governments in their rural development initiatives;
A total of thirteen youth entrepreneurship service camps were presented in the North West Province that trained 2600 learners.
The order was given in 2016 for military messes in the Defence Force to procure commodities produced by local communities. That process has already started as part of the plans for financial year 2017/18.