Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, joined the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) on 29 August in paying tribute to all female serving members at the annual Woman’s Day Parade held in Thaba Tshwane, Pretoria.
The parade featured a march on of an SANDF band troop and an all-woman parade of SANDF personnel.
“It’s not every day that you get to command the whole defence force. It’s a privilege and I’m really honoured,” said Lieutenant Colonel Nthabeleng Mathye as the battalion commander for the SANDF’s Women’s Day parade.
Mathye commanded an all-female group of all four arms of the SANDF: the South African Army, the South African Air Force, the South African Navy and the South African Military Health Services.
Mapisa-Nqakula then addressed the all-woman parade as well as guests. “For me it is also humbling especially since the start of the new administration that I once more deliver an address at this event as we pay tribute to all our female soldiers currently serving as well as those who have since retired,” said Mapisa-Nqakula.
The Minister said women’s representation in the Department of Defence (DOD) has increased over the years reaching 31% for the first time in 2019. “Today five out of the 38 Major Generals are women and 38 of the 163 Brigadier Generals are women,” she said. The minister went on to add that 39% or 568 woman in the military skills development system (MSDS) were granted contracts in the previous year. Within the critical masteries development programme, 29% consist of women, ranging from airspace controllers, engineers and artillery and anti-aircraft personnel. In combat masteries, 21% are woman and there are currently 68 woman generals in the SANDF. Mapisa-Nqakula considers these numbers to be a “great success”.
Mapisa-Nqakula addressed the National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace and Security in South Africa, relating to the importance of women’s equal participation and involvement in an effort to promote and maintain peace. “It is envisaged that by early September 2019, the NAP should be endorsed by Cabinet and the official launch to take place before the end of September,” she said.
The minister added that issues of abuse, discrimination and gender-based violence must be brought forward and encouraged woman to do so.
The minister states that in the process of recruiting woman, there needs to be an active thought process in the administration and recruiting office towards not just drawing in young people but young women.
United Nations (UN) battalion commander Tiitso Sekgobela was praised by Mapisa-Nqakula for her work in peace enforcement in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), stating, “at times, the action, was very robust and she has done well”.
“I am very proud that our woman have proven themselves to be capable of commanding, to being capable of being peacekeepers, capable of being peace enforcers when the need arises and they still rise up to any deployment that is given to them and I think that is something all South Africans should be proud of.”
“Right now, we have had a full parade of woman; it’s amazing because it is not something that we see often in other countries.”
In conclusion the minister stated that may the women of the SANDF continue to serve with pride, diligence and honour.
The Woman’s Day Parade is held in commemoration of Woman’s Month and this year’s parade also commemorated more than 20 000 women who protested against Pass Laws on 9 August 1956 – this year marks the 63rd Anniversary of the march. Marchers in 1956 demanded an end to Pass Laws which sought to control the movement of women around the country and regard women as property of the state.