BLOEMFONTEIN – The South African National Defence Forces (SANDF) and families that lost their loved ones in peace-keeping missions gathered in De Brug military base in Bloemfontein Wednesday, to commemorate the United Nations International Peace Keeping Day.
The day is celebrated around the world to honour those who die in peace-keeping missions. South Africa ranks 11th in Africa on military UN Peace Keeping Missions deployments around the world and has lost 55 soldiers in those operations between 2003 and 2017.
SANDF chief, General Solly Shoke, said the fallen heroes and heroines made some contributions towards realising former President Nelson Mandela’s dream.
“The men and women we honour here today marched from the comfort of their homes and warmth of their loved ones, to make their contribution towards the dream that our former President, Nelson Mandela had – a dream to silence the guns in our continent, protect vulnerable women, children, the elderly and the displaced,” said General Shoke.
“(Mandela had) A dream to end the torments, cruelty and nightmare that wars bring to bear on those at the receiving end, and ensure that Africa is at peace with herself and allow her children to enjoy the vast mineral endowments and wealth under the belly of her rich expansive lands.”
Emotions took over when families laid wreaths on the tombs of the late soldiers. One of those was Nozuko Ngamleka, whose husband Vusumuzi Ngamleka was among the 13 South African soldiers who died in the Central African Republic on March 24, 2013. Ngamleka said the commemoration would make their children proud that their father died for a good cause of defending their continent.
“We are glad that the SANDF is honouring our husbands as widows, that they were their heroes as much as they were are ours, and SANDF made show that the memories will always be there. This is a very important day to us,” she said.
General Shoke called on the soldiers to continue fighting till there was peace and stability in the continent. Among those who attended were the members of the diplomatic corps and United Nations resident coordinator Nardos Bekele-Thomas.
“The peace keeping is the most critical mission we have, and indeed we are because they were but prevention is better than response. As the community it is our role to be peace keepers,” said Bekele-Thomas.