Zuma commends SANDF for peacekeeping efforts

Friday, October 16, 2009

Bloemfontein - President Jacob Zuma has commended the South African Defence Force (SANDF) for its dedication to the goal of eradicating conflict on the continent.

"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," President Zuma said.

He added that due to the effort and zeal of soldiers to help those without hope, the victims of instability had benefited greatly.

The President was speaking at a colourful event in Bloemfontein to mark the 10th anniversary of the SANDF's participation in peacekeeping missions.

He told the SANDF members who had gathered at the event in full uniform and ceremony, that they had come a long way in making a difference in various war-torn parts of Africa since the first deployment in Kampala, Uganda and in the initial stages of the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) peace process.

Today, the Burundi people and the people of the DRC are each governed by democratically elected governments after decades of instability, the President noted.

"The SANDF has placed South Africa amongst the world's largest contributors to United Nations peacekeeping operations and South Africa is now regarded by the international community as an honest and reliable peace broker," said the President.

He said that the 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 can not survive in isolation, as its economic development and security is linked to the continent stability," he said.

He reiterated the country's commitment to deploying members of the force to various peacekeeping missions to assist in the resolution of conflict and strengthening democracy in a number of African states.

The President said that while a defence force played a critical role in creating an environment of peace and stability in which to consolidate democracy, South Africa's defence force went one step further.

"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," he added.

He encouraged the members of the SANDF to keep up the good work.

"I am very proud of the achievement of our soldiers and their commitment to protecting the integrity of our country and its people, you make us proud to be South Africa."

The President and Minister for Defence and Military Veterans, Lindiwe Sisulu, were welcomed at the event with a 21-gun salute and salute flight. The two laid a wreath in honour of those members who died while conducting peace missions.

The event is being held to mark an important milestone in the country's involvement in diplomatic endeavors to help eradicate conflicts in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region and on the African continent as a whole.

This has become a key element of South Africa's foreign policy and it is one of the largest troop contributors to peace missions in Africa.