President Jacob Zuma: Celebration of Armed Forces Day

Address by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Jacob Zuma on the occasion of the celebration of Armed Forces Day, Tlokwe Municipality, Potchefstroom, North West Province

Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces

The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans,

The Premier of the North West,

Ministers and Deputy Ministers,

Members of the Executive Council,

Mayor of Tlokwe and Councillors,

Secretary for Defence,

Chief of the South African National Defence Force,

Generals, Admirals, Officers, Warrant Officers,

Non-commissioned Officers,

Members on the Parade,

Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

Distinguished Guests,

Fellow South Africans,

It is my singular honour today to join you for the 3rd celebration of Armed Forces Day.

This is a very special day. We have come together again to celebrate the contribution of our armed forces to the consolidation of democracy and the protection of the sovereignty of the Republic and all our people.

I convene the Armed Forces Day celebration each year so that we can showcase and celebrate the successes of our defence force.

The success of our Defence Force means safety and security for our people as the South African National Defence Force exists to protect our people and our borders.

This year is extra special because we also celebrate the 21st anniversary of the existence of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).


This day, the 21st of February, which is also the anniversary of the fateful sinking of the Mendi ship, killing more than 600 black soldiers who had enlisted as a labour corps for the First World War.

It is one of the saddest moments in our colonial history. On the ruins of the Mendi and the racial discrimination of that era, we have built a defence force in which all are equal regardless of colour, race or creed.

We pride ourselves on having established this new, united national defence force out of the divisions and complications of the past.

Armed Forces Day is also an occasion to reflect on the progress and achievements made in the past 20 years of democracy.

In only 20 years, our defence force has become a force for peace and a force of great pride in the country and the continent because of the hard work, dedication and commitment of our soldiers.

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa places on the Defence Force the responsibility to undertake the protection and defence of the Republic, its sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest and its people.

It is fitting therefore that we dedicate a day each year, to celebrate all our soldiers for their contribution to the important task of defending the Republic.

Our Defence Force performs well both inside the country, and externally in support of the country’s foreign policy.

Here at home, our men and women in uniform continue to inspire our nation through providing much needed assistance and support in communities that are faced by natural disasters.

With the ever changing weather patterns in the country causing floods and other disasters, our people have been able to rely on the Defence Force to rescue and assist those in need and also to provide medical care and other support.

This highlights the Defence’s responsibility to support other government departments and the people of the country against environmental and non-military threats.

Early this year the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) was also involved in the operation to assist the people of Mozambique in disaster relief after the floods that threatened the survival and lives of the people of Mozambique.

We also recognise the contribution of our soldiers in the fight against crime in support of the police.

We commend the members of the SANDF who have worked with the police to develop the Rural Safety Strategy which is being implemented at 117 police stations countrywide, to promote safety and security in rural areas and in particular farming areas.

We also value the contribution of our soldiers in anti-crime border operations.

The SANDF has participated in the Border Safeguarding operation or Operation CORONA during the 2014/2015 financial year.

Based on the roll-out plan, our SANDF deployed thirteen sub-units to execute Operation CORONA in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and North West Provinces.

The success is visible through the illegal weapons seized and the recovery of stolen vehicles and livestock.

We are also happy that our soldiers are always ready to respond to calls to promote and support peace and stability on the African continent.

The South African National Defence Force has continued to participate in the United Nations Peace Support Operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the United Nations/African Union Hybrid mission in Sudan.

Our soldiers also continue to provide military training assistance to other armed forces in the continent.

Recently the SANDF became part of the newly established African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crisis, which is an interim mechanism to assist in peace and security in the continent until such time that the African Standby Force is ready.

South Africa has pledged a battalion which is being prepared and almost ready and can be deployed if so required by the African Union.

The standby force is a very important initiative by the continent because it enables us to provide African solutions to African problems.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We also recognise the South African Police Service (SAPS), which forms part of our security forces. The SAPS has also participated in peacekeeping missions on the continent.

These include the African Union/United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan and the African Union Mission in Somalia.

The SAPS also supports the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Organ on Politics, Defence and Security and has been involved in various election observer missions on the continent.


The future operational success of the defence force remains critically dependent on the quality and calibre of the future soldier and the development of responsible, value driven and disciplined soldiers.

It is for this reason that we are investing in youth development through promoting recruitment and careers in the defence force.

That is why every year, the Department of Defence recruits matriculants into the force, as part of the two-year Military Skills Development System.

You are contributing to training our youth in careers available in the SANDF such as pilots and navigators, air space controllers, engineers, doctors, dentists, nurses, naval combat officers, firemen, artillery, armour, communications personnel, human resource functionaries, logisticians and a host of others.

More than thirty six thousand young people have gone through the programme since its inception in 2013.

We are also using our Defence Force to teach our youth discipline. The Defence Force has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform under the programme called National Rural Youth Service Corps run by Rural Development and Land Reform.

Candidates are brought to the Defence Force for six weeks with the intention to develop a South African youth that is conscious of the requirements of a responsible citizen imbued with the values that the nation holds dear.

In this regard, we are pleased that the Defence Force continues to promote and enforce the values of


Work ethic

National identity

Human solidarity and


Through this intervention, the Defence Force is contributing to nation building and to building the future, for the youth is the future of this country.

This is important because our country is seriously in need of programmes that promote good citizenship and respect, especially given the exposure of our youth to behaviour that is unbecoming and unacceptable in the public sphere in recent times.

Our Defence Force should represent the ultimate in discipline and uprightness, so that we can use our soldiers as examples of how a true South African should behave in our country

Armed Forces Day is also about showcasing our equipment and resources and exhibiting our capability. The Defence Review has outlined what needs to be done to further enhance the capability of the defence force.

The implementation of the Review will give our defence force the resources to fulfil the mandate domestically and beyond our shores.

We congratulate all members who have received medals today. Continue working selflessly in defence of your country and people.

Fellow South Africans, as we celebrate Armed Forces today, we should pause as a nation to remember our men and women who have fall on duty serving the nation.

We salute them for their dedication. May their souls rest in peace. Our thoughts are with all affected families.

I wish you all happy Armed Forces Day!

I thank you.