Africa-Press – South-Africa. Johannesburg – President Cyril Ramaphosa has commended the SA National Defence Force for its contribution during the Covid-19 pandemic, which had seen thousands of the force’s members deployed across the country.
The president was marking National Armed Forces Day at the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town on Sunday.
The day marks the sinking of the troopship SS Mendi in the English Channel in February 1917 in which more than 600 South African troops lost their lives. It was mostly black troops who perished en route to France where they were to assist the British armed forces during World War 1.
The president acknowledged that this year’s celebrations were taking place under different circumstances as the country was battling the coronavirus pandemic.
Thousands of SANDF troops were deployed by Ramaphosa last year as the country went into lockdown to try to curb Covid-19 cases in the first wave of the pandemic. Since then, he has continued to extend their assistance for certain issues related to the pandemic.
In his speech, he commended the SANDF soldiers who had assisted in hospitals at the peak of the pandemic and those who had helped to patrol the country’s streets to ensure law and order.
“Through the invaluable work you have done – and continue to do – during this pandemic, you have demonstrated that the SANDF can be relied on in good times and in bad; in times of peace and times of war; in times of stability and prosperity, and in times of crisis.
“It was our soldiers who helped to maintain law and order in the early days of the lockdown. The landward force deployed no less than 33 companies in under 72 hours. The SANDF undertook mercy missions to repatriate our citizens abroad who were fearful and wanted to be reunited with their families,” the president said.
He also honoured the SANDF for outreach work in areas that had suffered natural disasters and in peace-building missions that the force engaged in other parts of the African continent.
“We know that the Defence Force will not accept any actions by its members that violate the laws of our country or the rights of our people. We know that where there are transgressions, it will against those responsible.
“As the men and women of our armed forces, you continue your work to build our country. You are engaged in disaster rescue missions, in building bridges to improve the lives of communities, and rehabilitating rivers from the effects of spillage,” Ramaphosa said.
The president laid a wreath at the Mendi Memorial and observed a flypast by the SA Air Force.