All systems go for Armed Forces Day


The mobilisation phase of Armed Forces Day 2019 is well underway and final on-the-ground preparations in and around Cape Town are nearing completion ahead of next week’s event.

Armed Forces Day per se is February 21, marking the sinking of the SS Mendi in the English Channel in 1917 when over 600 SA Native Labour Corps members and 33 crew members died. It has evolved into a week-long event with the national defence force using it to honour men and women in uniform, bring the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to the people and allowing SANDF Commander-in-Chief President Cyril Ramaphosa to take the salute from a mass parade of all four service arms and the Reserve Force.

Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi, SANDF Director: Corporate Communications, said in a statement ahead of next week’s event that Armed Forces Day “also serves to create consensus on defence by taking the SANDF to the people. During Armed Forces Day, the public is afforded an opportunity to interact with men and women in uniform and is exposed to the capabilities of our country’s state-of-the-art military equipment. Armed Forces Day is also a platform to test the SANDF’s logistic capabilities and state of readiness”.

All told more than 8 500 troops from all four services will be in the Western Cape provincial capital for Armed Forces Day.

The SA Army will have “an array of assets” from long-range artillery guns, tanks and armoured cars, bridge building and water purification capabilities, advanced battlefield surveillance and intelligence capabilities, ground-based air defence capabilities and infantry skills at the event.

Ground and air crew as well support staff, command and control personnel including the planning and safety disciplines from the SA Air Force (SAAF) will be present to back various aircraft in service. These include Agusta A109, Oryx, Rooivalk and Super Lynx helicopters, Gripen and Hawk Mk120 fighters and CASA 212, King Air and PC-12 from the transport fleet.

The SA Navy, host for Armed Forces Day 2019, will have the frigates SAS Amatola and SAS Spioenkop at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront along with the Type 209 submarine SAS Manthatisi, offshore patrol vessels SAS Galeshewe and SAS Makhanda and the support vessels SAS Drakensberg and SAS Protea.

In addition to providing medical support to all national defence force members taking part in the event, the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) will exhibit some specialist capabilities. These include an air-droppable surgical post, communicable disease isolation unit and mobile hospitals of varying size.

Probably the most awaited event of the week is a night shooting at Muizenberg’s Sunrise Beach. Diehard military enthusiasts and those who enjoy “proper” fireworks will make a point of being at both the rehearsal on Monday and the event proper on Tuesday. Starting time is listed as 19h30.

There will be a static display of military equipment and live arena military demonstrations between 16 and 19 February at the Mandela Park Sports Stadium in Khayelitsha from 08:00–18:00. Other events include a 5/10 km fun run at 8:00 on 16 February; marching band at the V&A Waterfront on 16 and 17 February at 16:00; an inter-faith service at 10:00 on 17 February at Cape Town City Hall and sports clinics for primary schools in Khayelitsha between 16 and 20 February.

South African Navy ships and submarines will be open to visit on 16 and 17 February at the V&A Waterfront from 9:00-15:00.

The highlight of Armed Forces Day will be the military parade and capability demonstration on 21 February at Table View Beach. This will include marching and mechanised columns (10:30 -13:00) and the capability demonstration (13:00). Entry is free and members of the public are invited to attend. In anticipation of large numbers expected to attend these activities, there will be viewing areas with big screens at the Grand Parade, Mandela Park Sports Stadium (Khayelitsha) and Table View Beach.