President Cyril Ramaphosa says Wednesday’s Armed Forces Day celebrations will have a special meaning this year.
“They occur as our nation celebrates the change of leadership in the governing party without any appetite for senseless bloodshed‚ because our Defence Force is led by wise women and men who abide by the ideal of the supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law.”
Ramaphosa spoke on Sunday in Kimberley in the Northern Cape at an interfaith prayer organised by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). Sunday was the first time Ramaphosa had spoken in public after delivering the state of the nation address on Friday.
Armed Forces Day commemorates the SS Mendi which sank in the English Channel on February 21 1917. It resulted in the deaths of 600 black soldiers.
President of the Republic of South Africa and the South African National Defence Force Commander-in-Chief, President Cyril Ramaphosa, addressing the Armed Forces Interfaith Service at Mittah Seperepere in Kimberley, Northern Cape. pic.twitter.com/G7Id004WOC
— PresidencyZA (@PresidencyZA) February 18, 2018
Ramaphosa said these soldiers paid the “ultimate price” to defend freedom‚ peace and justice.
“It is a day that reminds us that blood was spilled by countless South Africans and freedom fighters to guarantee us our freedom and human rights‚” Ramaphosa said.
“It is a reminder that brave men and women continue to put their lives on the line to secure our hard-won freedoms and defend our Constitution.”
Ramaphosa praised former President Nelson Mandela for leaving a “coherent” SANDF to protect South Africa.
“He [Mandela] left us a National Defence Force that is a true microcosm of our diverse society‚” Ramaphosa said.
“A truly national defence force for all South Africans that guarantees that its tanks and guns will never again roll into townships and suburbs to fight against the very same people it was established to protect.”