Honourable Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Ms Lindiwe Sisulu,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
The Premier of the Free State, Honourable Ace Magashule,
The Mayor of Mangaung, Playfair Morule,
Chief of the South African National Defence Force, General Godfrey Ngwenya,
Acting Secretary for Defence, Tsepe Motumi,
Senior Officials and Officers of the Department of Defence and Military Veterans,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Members of the Media,
Before I begin my address, I would like us all to bow our heads and observe a moment of silence for all our soldiers who lost their lives in the line of duty.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today is a day of great celebration for our country, as we mark ten years of the highly successful participation in peace support operations by the South African National Defence Force.
Members of the National Defence Force have come a long way to make a difference in various war-torn parts of our continent and beyond, since the first deployment in Kampala, Uganda in the initial stages of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) peace process.
The SANDF has placed South Africa amongst the world's largest contributors to United Nations peacekeeping operations. We attribute this to the dedication and professionalism demonstrated by our soldiers in the pursuit of the goal of eradicating conflict on our continent.
Members on parade, you have been excellent ambassadors of our country in the quest for peace. In difficult circumstances you have earned yourselves a place in the hearts of many; your selfless efforts have provided hope to the disillusioned.
The victims of instability can now see the light at the end of the tunnel due to your efforts and zeal to help those without hope. South Africa is now regarded by the international community as an honest and reliable peace broker.
Today the Barundi people and the people of the DRC are each governed by democratically elected governments after decades of instability. This achievement is due in part to the sterling contribution of our military to the peace processes in those countries.
Our Defence Force became involved in peace operations with the full understanding that for South Africa to enjoy economic prosperity there needs to be stability on the continent.
Our country cannot survive in isolation, as its economic development and security is linked to the continent's stability.
In pursuit of this quest, the SANDF therefore will continue to be deployed on various peacekeeping missions to assist in the resolution of conflict and in strengthening democracy in a number of African states.
As we do so, we recall the support that we received from many African countries in our own struggle for democracy, and we acknowledge with gratitude the hardships that many had to endure so that we could be free.
We will continue to work with multilateral bodies such as the African Union and the United Nations in the pursuit of peace.
As we recognise the work of our soldiers, we also acknowledge that the mission has not been all plain sailing.
We remain conscious of the hardships that continue to compromise our operations, such as malaria and attacks by those who work against peace and stability.
Ladies and gentlemen, and our soldiers,
The National Defence Force is the spear and the shield of our nation.
It is the ultimate arsenal when it comes to the security of this country, its people and its borders, and our democracy.
We have consolidated our democracy, strengthened our institutions and continue with the programme of building a truly united, non-racial, non-sexist, prosperous and democratic South Africa.
We must consolidate and defend these gains continuously and consistently. There are those who believe that the intensification of democracy in any country reduces the security threat, and that there is no need to invest in defence in democracies such as ours. This is a mistaken view.
The existence of conflict in many regions in the world indicates that democracy within one's borders is not a guarantee of national security. Nations have to invest in their security, and we will not be found wanting in that regard; for, the instability in our continent presents a direct National Security threat to us.
We see no contradiction between democracy and a powerful and highly capable National Defence Force.
A Defence Force plays a critical role in creating an environment of peace and stability in which to consolidate democracy. Our Defence Force plays an additional role, as it has continental responsibilities as well.
It therefore has to be capacitated appropriately to play that role.
When it brings about peace in the continent, our Defence Force creates an environment that is conducive for reconstruction and development in our region, and possibilities of faster economic development.
We therefore acknowledge the outstanding contribution of our soldiers to the implementation of our foreign policy, which is centred on creating a peaceful and better Africa, as well as a just world.
This means that investing in our Defence Force means we are investing in the creation of conditions for democracy, strengthening of democracy and defending democracy.
Ladies and gentlemen, this celebration of the 10th anniversary of the SANDF's participation in peace missions coincides with the SADC Standby Force's Exercise Golfinho at Lohatlha in the Northern Cape, a fitting tribute to this important milestone.
Once again, let me emphasise that I am very proud of the achievements of our soldiers and their commitment to protecting the integrity of our country and its people. Keep up the good work. You make us proud to be South African.
I thank you.