Address by President Nelson Mandela delivered on his behalf by Deputy Minister Kasrils at inauguration of National Defence Liaison Council, Johannesburg

18 November 1997

Master of ceremonies;
Cabinet Ministers;
Chief of the SANDF and Secretary of Defence;
Heads of the Arms of Service;
Members of the National Defence Liaison Council;
Officials of the Part-Time Force Organisations;
Distinguished guests,

It is a great honour to join you in marking the inauguration of the National Defence Liaison Council.

When the people of South Africa chose negotiations and elections as the path to democracy, one of their founding actions was the creation of a new National Defence Force - a defence force of national unity, committed to loyally defending our nation, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In the Constitution, in the White Paper on Defence and in the Defence Review our people have affirmed through their elected representatives that this new national defence force shall be a volunteer force. And they have decided that a critical component of its backbone shall be the Citizen in Uniform; the Part-Time soldier.

All of us therefore face the challenge of helping build a Part Time Force that is credible and legitimate in the eyes of our people; one that is representative of our population; one whose forces come freely from the ranks of our citizens, and one which is dedicated to the defence of our hard-won democracy.

Our Part Time Force will only become a focus for nation-building and the forging of national unity, as well as a defender of our freedom, if and when all sectors of society join hands to develop the Force and to build support for it.

We need a vigorous, systematic and targeted recruitment campaign to swell the ranks of the Part Time Force. This campaign must reach all our citizens; in the cities and the countryside; in the towns, villages and farms; in townships, suburbs and rural areas. And these recruits must find their way, from every community and all walks of life, into formations such as the Cape Town Highlanders; the Luthuli Regiment of Soweto, the Natal Mounted Rifles, the Tambo Regiment of Kwa Mashu, and the Chris Hani Regiment of Khayelitsha.

The establishment of the National Defence Liaison Council is critical to the success of this bold venture. By bringing together leading members of business, trade unions, non-governmental organisations, and the Part-Time Force itself, we are creating a unique partnership for galvanising Public Participation and support.

In our approach we are following a pattern set by many other democracies. It is an approach in which the volunteer system is backed by deliberate professional public promotion and the active support of employer and labour organisations.

In marketing the new Part-Time Military Service System, the Communication Service of the Department of Defence, working with the Part-Time Force Council, should reach out to our communities countrywide.

The need for an employer and organised labour support structure gave birth to the concept of a National Defence Liaison Council. Today marks the fulfilment of the ideal, and it has proved to be an inspiring concept!

As Commander-in-Chief, I strongly supported the proposal for such a body, and issued personal invitations to leading members of employer and labour organisations to volunteer their services to the Council. The response, as we can see from today's gathering, was outstanding. May I take this opportunity to thank all concerned for their patriotism and their willingness to advance the cause.

The Liaison Council's responsibilities will be those of an independent voluntary, advisory and consultative body. On your activities will depend the support and enthusiasm of employers, organised labour, and the community at large. Your influence will nourish the volunteer ethos through all the structures of our society.

In the measure that you succeed in your tasks, the government and the defence force will be better equipped to make the system attractive to society as a whole.

I am confident that with the wealth of experience and leadership concentrated in its members, the Council will prove equal to the challenge.

Your country expects no less of you.

An effective defence force, supporting a secure national and local environment, helps create a climate in which the country can develop and prosper. It is favourable to economic growth and job creation and therefore to reconstruction and development.

A productive and efficient voluntary part-time service system demands a fraction of the nation's resources compared with a large full-time component.

This form of service will delivery confident and motivated personnel to the economy; men and women with a strong sense of loyalty, duty and discipline, who will also bring more skills into the workforce.

A successful part-time voluntary service system will do all these things. Above all, it will ensure that South Africa has a defence force worthy of its new democracy.

It is therefore no exaggeration to speak of the inauguration of this distinguished Council is an historic event.

On this day, I wish to congratulate all of you. I would like to strongly encourage South Africans of all communities and persuasions to volunteer for service in our part-time units and I appeal to the business community, organised labour and all structures of civil society to give their wholehearted support.

May this venture meet with every success. I assure you that I will be proud to give you my fullest support as Patron.

I thank you!

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website