Further evidence of his willingness to engage with those he commands comes from the latest stop on visits to SA Army bases, units as well as higher military learning institutions by Lieutenant General Lawrence Mbatha.
The Army Chief was in Thaba Tshwane, widely acknowledged as South Africa’s military capital, last week where he saw and spoke to the 321 senior officers and warrant officers on Officers Commanding and Regimental Officers and Junior Command and Staff courses at the SA Army College.
Colonel Sammy Mosiane, SSO SA Army Corporate Communication, reports Mbatha told all on course at the landward force’s senior higher learning institution they should – at all times – “strive to achieve excellence beyond expectations”.
In this regard he gave 10 examples of Army achievements.
These included “meticulous execution” of the Ukuthula Modern Brigade Exercise in November 2021 at the Northern Cape Combat Training Centre (CTC), operational success in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by the South African contingent, in particular 21 SA Infantry (SAI) Battalion under Operation Mistral, and Operation Vikela in Mozambique under the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM).
Other achievements Mbatha rated were successful staffing and placement of personnel perceived to have stayed longer in their ranks through Exercise Hope; fast-tracking of placements and appointments of Public Service personnel in the SA Army and concerted efforts addressing the backlog on Junior Command Staff Course attendance. He did not forget the current Operation Chariot deployment in flood-ravaged KwaZulu-Natal where Sappers and infantry are in the vanguard putting the province back on its feet.
Recent developments that will be part of responsibilities awaiting those on course when they return to units on successful completion of their studies were also pointed out by the three-star. They emanate from an April SA National Defence Force (SANDF) work session and are the change in status of Project Koba-Tlala to a production brigade as well as bakeries at SA Army bases “that will produce bread for our units for 2022/2023 and progress to eventually supply most of the Department of Defence (DoD) military units in financial year 2023/2024 onwards”.
Other highlights were in Armed Forces Day in Mbombela in February, a Freedom of the City parade in Thohoyandou, long service medal parades, addressing the backlog on Army courses by doubling or tripling attendance numbers and responding to civil unrest in July 2021 under Operation Prosper.
Looking to the future, Mbatha highlighted ongoing efforts to establish three Modern Brigades around the country. They are a motorised, an airborne and a light one, already effective in its main purpose of operations other than war (OOTW) which include disaster relief, election support and responding to civil unrest.