Defence Force reaps benefits of Armed Forces Day activities


The South African Navy, hosts of the 2019 iteration of Armed Forces Day, is planning a huge spectacle in and around Cape Town.

Armed Forces Day, which has morphed into a week-long event between February 15 to 21, is seen as a showcase for what South Africa’s senior military command calls “the people’s Defence Force.” With a week-long mobilisation phase and a further week of demobilisation, over 8 500 troops and hundreds of vehicles and aircraft will be descending on the Western Cape.

As this year is the SA Navy’s turn to host the premier Defence Force public interaction event, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula decided in September last year that it would be held in Cape Town.

“We are thrilled to be able to host it in Cape Town,” Rear Admiral Guy Jamieson, Deputy Chief Navy, told defenceWeb, “(it is) where the vast majority of our naval forces are based.”

However, hosting a large event such as this cost money, lots of it, something Jamieson is acutely aware of. He acknowledges that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has “suffered from major budgetary issues.”

But, he stresses, there are some major benefits to the hosting of an activity such as Armed Forces Day.

“We feel that this is a very, very worthwhile exercise for several reasons,” Jamieson explained. “One of the reasons is that it forces us, in the National Defence Force, to test our ability to deploy and move forces around the country.”

Indeed, aircraft will be coming from as far afield as AFB Makhado in Limpopo, with soldiers, armour and artillery coming from bases such as those near Bloemfontein and Kimberly. As the majority of the equipment will arrive by road, it is vital that the transport plan ensures that they can cross bridges, go under overpasses, through mountain passes, etc.

“It’s a major exercise in planning a deployment, in sustainment of these forces when they (arrive).”

Another aspect is the various air, beach and firing capability demonstrations around the Peninsula.

“Even though no one’s shooting back at us or trying to prevent us landing on the beaches, it’s still a worthwhile exercise and quite a tricky planning exercise,” Jamieson continued, “So it makes us better, it improves our capability, by doing this.”

Yet another benefit is that it allows the SANDF to plan and execute in a joint manner, with the Air Force, Army, Navy and Medical Health Services all working together whilst “at the same time demonstrating our credibility in public.”

“But above all,” Jamieson notes, “it gives the South African National Defence Force a chance to interact with the local population. That’s why we move this Armed Forces Day around the country. We want people to see that we are there, we want to become relevant. We want them to see the kind of things that we are capable of doing.”

The SANDF planners, under the leadership of Rear Admiral (JG) James Matshimane (Director Naval Personnel) have been working for months with the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape provincial government. “It’s quite a major activity to get this coordination going and it’s a worthwhile thing to do,” Jamieson says.

One of the military’s roles is to prove assistance to local government and local municipalities during times of disaster, such as floods and fires. Jamieson likens this to military operations other than war.

“We don’t just wage war,” he says. “There’s a lot of other collateral value and it will be good that we know how to plan with a municipality, provincial authorities etc. So once again, the planning, setting up and coordination of this Armed Forces Day raises our game in that regard.”

Capetonians can look forward tomany events not seen before at various locations around the Peninsula, many with panoramic views of Table Mountain.

A Fan Park at the Mandela Park Stadium in Khayelitsha between 16 to 19 February will host numerous displays by the various arms of service, including the Rooivalk and Agusta A109 helicopters, allowing the SANDF to interact with the community as well as to create awareness regarding career opportunities in the SANDF.

The V&A Waterfront will host a large number of SA Navy warships and a submarine for the public to visit on 16 and 17 February. These include the Valour-Class frigates SAS AMATOLA and SAS SPIOENKOP, offshore patrol vessels SAS GALESHEWE and the SAS MAKHANDA, Type 209 submarine SAS MANTHATISI, fleet replenishment ship SAS DRAKENSBERG and hydrographic survey ship SAS PROTEA.

In order to showcase how the SANDF assets are deployed and utilised, a night shoot at Sunrise Beach, Muizenberg, on 19 February (with a rehearsal held the preceding night) will feature such weapons as the Olifant main battle tank, various Ratel infantry fighting vehicles, the Rooikat armoured car, numerous artillery pieces, guided missiles and multiple rocket launchers.

The main event on 21 February will feature a parade along the Table View beachfront, presided over by SANDF Commander-in-Chief President Cyril Ramaphosa, followed by a Capability Demonstration and mock attack on Table View Beach.

The South African Air Force will be contributing a wide variety of aircraft, including the Gripen and Hawk jets, C-130BZ Hercules and C-212 transport aircraft and Oryx, Rooivalk, A109 and Super Lynx helicopters. The aircraft will be flying out of AFB Langebaanweg and AFB Ysterplaat, but the SAAF will also provide a show-of-force by flying formations over the wider Western Cape Region, including the North West and Southern coasts. There is even the possibility of SAAF Museum aircraft participating.

Other events include a 5/10km walk/run along the Green Point Promenade (16 February), sport development clinics in Khayelitsha (18 to 20 February), an interfaith service at the Cape Town City Hall (17 February) and a Gala Concert of combined military bands and choirs at the Cape Town City Hall (18 February).

The Siviwe School of Skills in Gugulethu has been identified as the Minister of Defence & Military Veterans Legacy Project for Armed Forces Day 2019, whereby repair work will undertaken by SANDF members with material sourced through donations and sponsors.