Address by President Nelson Mandela at the flag-raising ceremony on the anniversary of the inauguration of South Africa's first democratically elected President

10 May 1995

Lieutenant General Moloi and Officers of the South African National Defence Force;
Men and women on parade.

A year ago today the defence force touched the nation's heart in a spectacular demonstration of its loyalty to our country's new constitution.

We were then at a critical point in our history. We were poised between two orders, between oppression and freedom. The people has spoken in the elections and the country waited upon the transfer of power to South Africa's first democratic government.

That pledge by the defence force helped secure the conditions in which it has been possible to pursue reconstruction and reconciliation, nation-building and development.

Your action today recalls that critical moment and renews that pledge. It is, therefore, deeply moving and I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation of this fine gesture.

It is reassuring, to myself and to the nation, to know of your unstinting support and loyalty towards your commander-in-chief and to the constitution of our country.

Ultimately the security of our country and the survival of our new-found freedom will depend on the degree to which we succeed in creating a better life for all South Africans, especially the poor.

In reaching that goal, effective protection of the country and its people is of critical importance. It is required for the consolidation of our democracy and its extension to the local level. It is essential to the generation of sustained economic growth and the successful implementation of the Reconstruction and Development Programme.

I am, therefore, proud of the contribution of the National Defence Force to national stability. In particular, it has given invaluable support to the Police Service in working for a reduction in violent crime, especially in the worst-affected areas. This will be of great importance as the Community Safety Plan unfolds to bring to all our communities the safety and security which is their right.

The widespread support which the defence force enjoys in carrying out this role, can only be enhanced by the professionalism which it has displayed in its conduct, and its success in remaining above party politics.

Those characteristics will equally earn the nation's respect for the defence force in it primary role of defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the republic. This includes protection of our borders, given such rampant problems as drug trafficking, illegal immigration and arms smuggling.

As we set out on our second Freedom Year, determined to build upon the success of the first year, we know that we can count on our defence force to carry out the task of defending the constitution with loyalty and dedication.

Dear compatriots;

As we celebrate our freedom and work together to build a better country, let us also remember all those who gave their lives so that we could enjoy democracy. Let us resolve to be worthy of the ideals for which they gave so much.

I have every confidence that the members of the defence force will not be found wanting.

I am proud to be the leader of a military organisation so professional in its conduct and which is showing such commitment to democracy.

May peace and freedom continue to bless our country!

Source: South African Government Information Website