Sa­lut­ing the first of a demo­cratic SA

The Star Early Edition - - POLITICS -

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.

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