Address by President Nelson Mandela on South African National Defence Force Day

11 November 1994

Deputy Minister of Defence and Mrs Kasrils;
Chief of the South African Defence Force and Mrs Meiring;
Premier of the Northern Transvaal Province and Mrs Ramathlodi;
Mayor of Pietersburg and Mrs Pretorius;
Officers of the SANDF;
Men and Women on Parade;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

With this first South African National Defence Force Day we celebrate a magnificent achievement and we make a solemn pledge. It is a milestone, not only in the history of our country's military formations, but in the history of our country itself. For me, therefore, it is both a privilege and a source of pride to share this moment with you.

As opperbevelhebber, betuig ek graag my gelukwense aan almal wat vandag se geleentheid gereël het en daaraan deelneem.

Die netheid en flinkheid van die lede op parade is 'n aanduiding van die eenheid wat al bereik is. Baie geluk aan u almal. Wel gedaan.

May the awards and medals being given today always serve as an inspiration, not only to yourselves but to every member of the National Defence Force, to answer to the call of duty in the interest of peace in our country.

Dit is bekend dat ons besig is met 'n proses om sewe militêre magte te integreer in een Suid-Afrikaanse Nasionale Weermag.

Met die oog op die legitimiteit van ons weermag op nasionale vlak is dit noodsaaklik dat die integrasie proses so inklusief en billik as moontlik sal wees.

Om dié rede moet ons almal, en ek bedoel almal wat die land se belange eerste stel, die probleme oplos. Ons moet verseker dat die Suid-Afrikaanse Nasionale Weermag waarlik 'n weermag uit die mense vir die mense is.

Hierdie weermag het baie vermoëns. So het hy ook die vermoë om 'n belangrike bydrae tot die Heropbou en Ontwikkelingsprogram te maak en tot nasie bou. Gesprekke om die Weermag by hierdie programme to betrek, het reeds plaasgevind, en gaan voort.

Wat egter moet onthou word, is dat die hooftaak van die Weermag is om die gebied integriteit van Suid-Afrika te beskerm. In die eerste plek verwag ons, as die Regering van Nasionale Eenheid, van die Bevelsraad van die Weermag om te verseker dat die Weermag paraat is om sy hooftaak na te kom.

We welcome the concept of a Service Corps and hope that this will get off the ground very soon. This Corps is expected to play an invaluable role in social upliftment projects and will provide its troops with both life skills and advanced training.

Our country is grappling with the challenge of redirecting its priorities so that our limited resources can be most effectively used in achieving our primary task: creating a better life for all South Africans. This requires of every institution, that it critically reviews its own priorities within the new situation.

No longer at war with itself or with its neighbours - a democracy at last - our country needs a national defence force which in its ethos, culture and doctrine fully reflects the new situation. I have full confidence that, despite these constraints, you will find new and better ways of advancing both the technological standards and policy content of our defence establishment.

This occasion should not pass without our recognising the signal contribution to democracy in Mozambique which our military forces made, through their assistance in the running of the recent elections.

Insofar as integration is concerned: I appeal to every member of the National Defence Force and to every citizen - let us join hands and co-operate in building a truly South African National Defence Force, a force which all our people can be proud of.

There have been genuine and serious grievances affecting those former members of non-statutory forces awaiting integration. The government has accepted that fact; and we are addressing these problems with a sense of urgency.

However, we must build a defence force on the foundation of discipline. The doors of the NDF are open to all who wish to contribute to rebuilding our country. But those who wish to undermine our efforts have no role in our new national defence force. In this regard, I am fully behind the initiatives taken by the Minister of Defence to address the recent problems at Wallmansthal. Let this be a lesson to everyone that our government will be firm in dealing with misdemeanours of this nature, particularly in our Defence Force.

In conclusion, let me congratulate the recipients of the Unitas Medals, especially the Generals present here today. These medals are a symbol of unity, and they will be awarded to all members who have made a meaningful contribution to the establishment of the united National Defence Force.

As Commander-in-Chief, I say to the recipients today, and to every one else who will be receiving these medals: Wear your medal with pride and dignity; and let it be a pledge, to yourself and to the nation, of your personal commitment to strive for excellence and to defend our democracy.

I thank you all for a wonderful day, and I wish you great success in all your endeavours.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation