Some years ago the SANDF touted itself as “Defence in a Democracy”.
This has been superseded by “The Pride of the Nation”. That slogan was proudly carried by the SAAF at the time of the country’s democratisation and was fitting tribute to the helicopters and Cheetah jets that brought pride to the nation in its infancy. People cheered wildly when helicopters carrying the national and military flags flew low over the Union Buildings and even more enthusiastically when a flight of Cheetahs thrilled them with a low and thundering flypast.
Sadly events in the Central African Republic (CAR) have again thrust the SANDF into the national spotlight and even more sadly, there are far more questions than answers.
It’s all well and good for SANDF Chief General Solly Shoke to say he is only a soldier following orders and not a politician but the return to South Africa of 13 elite members of 1 Parachute Battalion in body bags demands more and better.
It appears the “defence in a democracy” concept has gone out of the window to be replaced by statements couched in officialese and jargon. Some long-time military observers are even likening the current drips of information coming out of SANDF headquarters to that disseminated by the former SA National Defence Force at the height of the Border War and what PW Botha and his cohorts called the “Rooi Gevaar”.
It is both sad and sorry this perception is taking hold in the public debate and dialogue about the CAR deployment.
What the SANDF needs is support from all South Africans to truly make it the pride of the nation. It is not doing itself any favours with the current spin being put on the CAR issue.
Whether Shoke and his senior command cadre are being reined in by the politicians in dealing with the media will, in all probability, never become clear but that South Africans want answers is clear.
Surely, now is the right time for the defence in a democracy slogan to be uppermost or is it, as one regular defenceWeb reader puts it, “a case of putting the CARt ahead of the SANDF”?