Address by President Nelson Mandela at the International Fleet Review to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the South African Navy, Cape Town

5 April 1997

Minister of Defence and other Ministers;
Acting Premier of the Western Cape;
Chief of the South African National Defence Force and Secretary for Defence;
Chief of the South African Navy;
Visiting Naval Chiefs;
Mayor of Cape Town;
Ladies and gentlemen.

It is a source of great pride to join you all in celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the South African Navy.

It is a particular pleasure to welcome the naval chiefs and representatives of navies who have come from across the world to honour our Navy and our country. Your presence confirms that our newly-achieved democracy has turned the sea into a factor that joins us rather than separates us. You and your ships come as envoys of peace and will always be welcome in our waters.

It was a moving experience to take the salute at the International Fleet Review. The dramatic display of the power and mobility of naval forces provided a wonderful and impressive sight. The knowledge that our navy and so many other national navies were saluting our young Rainbow Nation, has made the occasion both immensely humbling and deeply inspiring.

It was also most satisfying to see the ships of our merchant and fishing fleets taking part in the Review. They play an essential part in our economy. Our prosperity and the welfare of our people depend to a large degree on them. The sea is a vital national interest and that is why we maintain the navy.

Just as we believe that all people should be free, so too as a nation we believe in the freedom of the seas. That is a matter of national strategic interest. We are a maritime nation trading all over the world. We accept our obligation to combine with other maritime nations to uphold the freedom of the seas and to protect our national interests through naval power. We also undertake to manage the resources of our huge Exclusive Economic Zone wisely for the benefit of the people of the region.

Ladies and gentlemen;

We are proud to recall the contribution that the South African Navy made during the Second World War in the struggle against Nazism and Fascism. Members of the Navy served in every naval theatre of that war, often far from home and many times in harsh conditions. The actions and the sacrifices of those South Africans, including many who were then still denied freedom in their own country, helped bring peace and freedom to the world.

Now that South Africa itself is free and we are building a new nation, the Navy, like all our institutions and as part of the National Defence Force, has set out on the path of its own transformation. In this regard I welcome the change in the names of our strike craft - it is a positive sign of our Navy's commitment to the culture and traditions of our new democracy.

The government appreciates the value of the Navy to a democratic South Africa, in which trade and the protection of maritime resources have such importance. We need the professional skills and dedication of our naval service men and women. We thank you for your commitment and are proud of your achievements.

We would like to assure Vice Admiral Simpson-Anderson and the men and women of the South African Navy that we recognise the needs of the Navy. Changing priorities have led to a reduction in the defence budget. But we do recognise our responsibility for ensuring that our country has an adequate and appropriate naval force. The need to modernise our fleet is not a matter of debate.

I expect that the Defence Review will herald the renaissance of the South African Navy, the maritime shield of the Nation and the guardian of our seas.

Die vloot is die maritieme skild van ons nasie; die bewaker van ons see.

Inavy ngu mkhosi wokhuselo wesizwe emanzini; Umgcini weelwandle zethu.

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

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website