President Cyril Ramaphosa says those who died on the SS Mendi steamship are heroes who sacrificed their lives in their quest for peace in the world.
He was paying tribute to the soldiers. whose steamship sank 104 years ago, during celebrations to commemorate National Armed Forces Day at the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town today.
A total of 616 black South African troops died when the steamship sank on its way to France.
Ramaphosa says, “As we remember them, we also recognise and celebrate the contribution of our men and women in uniform to building a better life for the South African people and for the people of the African continent. As we mark this day, the highest ideal for which the soldiers on the SS Mendi lived and died remains as true as ever.”
Ramaphosa has urged members of the South African National Defence Force to pick up the spears of the SS Mendi fallen heroes by making an effort to give South Africans lasting peace, security and stability.
Efforts against COVID-19
The President has thanked the SANDF for playing an essential role in the country’s efforts against the coronavirus.
He says the members heeded their Constitutional call and acted when the country needed them the most.
“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.”
The President says the soldiers made the following contributions during lockdown:
- Helped maintain law and order during the early days of lockdown.
- Landward force deployed no less than 33 companies in the first 72 hours of lockdown.
- Undertook mercy missions to repatriate South Africans from abroad.
- SA Army Engineers Corps helped deliver clean water to vulnerable communities.
- SA Air Force and the Logistics Division distributed supplies to deployed forces.
- SA Military Health Service deployed personnel to all provinces where they worked in hotspots and helped set up field hospitals and quarantine sites.
- SANDF members helped the elderly carry groceries and showed compassion for many others.
Ramaphosa paid tribute to SANDF members who succumbed to COVID-19, saying they were heroes who died in the line of duty.
President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers the keynote address at the National Armed Forces Day: