The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has proven its role as a protector of the country's constitutional order by allowing a peaceful handover of leadership in the ANC, President Cyril Ramaphosa said in Kimberley on Sunday.
"Our nation celebrates the change of leadership in the governing party without even having any appetite for senseless bloodshed because our defence force is led by wise men and women who abide by the ideal of the supremacy of our constitution and the rule of law," Ramaphosa said at an inter-faith prayer service organised by the SANDF.
The new commander-in-chief said: "Our defence force has once again confirmed the depths of the roots of our democracy and the flourishing of a constitutional order."
Ramaphosa said that he was "extremely pleased" with assurances he received in a recent meeting with General Solly Shoke.
"He assured me that this SANDF will never get involved in politics; that this SANDF is there to protect the people of South Africa, whoever the commander-in-chief of our country is."
During an interview with the SABC, shortly before his resignation, then-president Jacob Zuma made reference to his own military experience to explain his understanding of the party's power to recall him.
"[The] ANC can deploy and remove [cadres]. I totally agree and I did this at times. I deployed soldiers to go and fight inside the country, even in [circumstances] where they might be killed or arrested... deploying cadres is what I know best," Zuma said at the time.
The subtext of these comments was pondered by some analysts.
On Sunday, calling the SANDF "our national pride", Ramaphosa said it was a "true privilege" for him to attend the function as his very first official duty as president.
"By coming to this service and being in your presence, and also participating in taking the salute... this for me is a real honour."
Sunday's service was held ahead of Armed Forces Day, which will take place on Wednesday.
Ramaphosa also promised that he would attend this service, and pledged to visit SA troops posted abroad.
"The Minister of Defence has been whispering to me that I should go and visit the soldiers in the countries where they are deployed.
"I will do so," he declared.