Last week’s devastating fire at the Wallmansthal military area saw hundreds of unserviceable national defence force vehicles burnt out, drawing swift response in the form of a site visit from Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise, in office for less than two months.
The fire, now the subject of an official SA National Defence Force (SANDF) board of inquiry (BOI), was apparently caused by strong winds which a fire on the Wallmannsthal grounds burn out of control. Civilian and Tshwane metro firefighters were called in to assist their military colleagues. It took close to 12 hours of night firefighting to extinguish the blaze which affected only unserviceable vehicles destined to be scrapped, according to SANDF Corporate Communication.
As far as can be ascertained, Minister Modise’s visit to the sprawling training and vehicle maintenance area north of Pretoria, was her first “operational” call since taking office early in August.
She requested a comprehensive briefing from Wallmansthal senior staff and was accompanied by SA Army Chief, Lieutenant General Lawrence Mbatha, and Chief of Logistics Lieutenant General Jabulani Mbuli.
SA Army communication officer Colonel Sammy Mosiane reports the briefing and subsequent question and answer session were comprehensive with a visit to fire-affected areas, including the main ordinance sub-depot overhead storage park, following.
After the site visit, Minister Modise is reported as saying the landward force has to “immediately embark on advanced and thorough preparations for future disaster management situations”.
She envisages this capacity being beneficial to the SANDF and South Africa. Her observations, according to Mosiane, are based on the national defence force having, to a certain extent, the ability to develop capacity to speedily respond to incidents such as the Wallmansthal fire.