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Article by Cpl Lebogang Ramaboea, Ad Astra magazine, photos by Sgt Morris Sekgothe  

President Jacob Zuma, commander-in-chief of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and his predecessor Thabo Mbeki, on 6 December 2012 at Air Force Base (AFB) Waterkloof were bestowed with Platinum Class II medals. This was the 3rd military veterans parade.

Andrew Mlangeni presenting President Jacob Zuma with Platinum Class II award

Previous recipients of Platinum Class II medal included Chief Albert Luthuli, Oliver Tambo and former president Nelson Mandela. The other comrades of the Luthuli detachments were awarded Platinum Class III, Bravery in Gold, Merit Gold, Sabotage Campaign Medal and Luthuli Commemorative Medal. An estimate of 106 medals was handed out to the contingent on the occasion.

Senior combatants recognised were former cabinet ministers Zola Skweyiya, Pallo Jordan together with brothers Aziz and Essop Pahad. The list also included speaker of parliament, Max Sisulu, presidential spokesperson, Mac Maharaj and stalwart, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Posthumously awards were given to Alfred Nzo, James Kati and Gert Sibande amongst others deceased comrades.

Madikizela-Mandela, said she was elated to be respected by her peers while still alive. “Many of us fought tirelessly for this freedom”, added the stalwart.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela sharing a moment with President Zuma after receiving Merit Gold medal

Andrew Mlangeni, a member of parliament (MP) for the ruling party, gave medals to both Zuma and Mbeki on behalf of Nelson Mandela, the first commander-in-chief of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) an armed wing of African National Congress (ANC). President Zuma announced plans by government to build a heroes acre and a museum to preserve the rich history of military veterans and their contribution to the struggle for liberation. In addition, the Defence Centre of Advanced Training in Phelindaba, Tshwane, will be turned into a training academy for veterans’ who qualify to be taught new skills.

Senior citizens of the republic acknowledged for their bravery in the mist of 16 Days of Activism for no Violence Against Women and Children

Furthermore, the president said the support for military veterans should not be limited to the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) alone. He added that about 700 military veterans would be absorbed into the Department of Water Affairs through the working for water project.

The president emphasised that “military veterans are not a charity or welfare case but men and women of honour. This is not as a favour or a gesture, but indeed, as a constitutional and legal obligation to which we are committed to”. Zuma also said South Africans must restore their dignity by acknowledging them as patriots, those who were once vilified as terrorists.

The medal ceremony sought to erase forever any tag that could have attempted to brand them as outlaws. “By the same token, we are declaring through these medals that never again shall we allow our country to be at war with itself”, said Zuma.

President Jacob Zuma urged veterans to record their experiences and stories in exile by writing books and making films.

SA Air Force members of parade for Military Veterans at Air Force Base Waterkloof

Recognition was given to MK members only. The state president, Jacob Zuma, who also received a medal, said: “members from former Azanian People’s Liberation Army (APLA) and Azanian National Liberation Army (AZANLA) veterans would be honoured at a later date”. The DMV was created in 2009, which saw the promulgation of the military veterans act 18, 2011.

Under the current medium term expenditure framework, the DMV has been allocated R1, 6 billion. Already, over 2000 military veterans are estimated to be benefiting from free health care service.

Minister of Defence and Military Veterans (MOD&MV), Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, said: “celebrating both Zuma and Mbeki gave the day a special meaning”. Her deputy, Thabang Makwetla, added that: “as we rebuild the nation, we shall remain forever indebted to this generation of men and women”. He further noted that the DMV aims to preserve and profile the broad military history of South Africa’s erstwhile military organisations.

Moreover, deputy minister Makwetla said the apartheid regime awarded former South African Defence Force (SADF) members who deserved medals.

The parade had all the pomp that included a 21-gun salute, flypass by Silver Falcons aircraft and a drill display by the four arms of service.

Chaplain General Andrew Jamangile called on spectators to observe a moment of silent for 11 South African Air Force (SAAF) members who died in a fatal aircraft accident. The Dakota, also known as C-47TP, of 35-squadron crushed over Giant Castle within the Drakensburg mountain range the previous day.


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