Next week, Mpumalanga will become the last province in the current round to host an Armed Forces Day commemoration, with events planned for Barberton and provincial capital, Mbombela.
In previous years the commemorative event was expanded to a week with displays of defence equipment and career guidance. Last year’s Armed Forces Day/Week was a COVID-19 casualty, with a scaled down event seeing SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Commander-in-Chief, President Cyril Ramaphosa, delivering a speech and laying a wreath at the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town.
This month the province whose name means ‘where the sun rises in Zulu’ will have its opportunity to host the national defence force.
Ahead of a full SANDF parade at the Mbombela Stadium on the outskirts of the provincial capital, a wreath laying ceremony is planned for Barberton. An SANDF Directorate: Corporate Communication (DCC) advisory gives no detail of the ceremony apart from indicating Ramaphosa will lay a wreath. In all probability the wreath laying ceremony will be at the town’s war memorial, which commemorates South Africans who died in both world wars.
Armed Forces Day in South Africa is 21 February, commemorating the worst naval tragedy in the country’s history – the sinking of the troopship SS Mendi in the English Channel on that date in 1917. Over six hundred SA Native Labour Corps troops drowned when the ill-fated troopship was struck by the SS Darro.
The parade at the stadium, purpose built for South Africa’s hosting of the FIFA Soccer World Cup in 2010, will see a flypast of multiple SA Air Force (SAAF) aircraft the DCC said in its advisory. The SA Army, SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) and SA Navy (SAN) will also be part of the parade.
Previous Armed Forces Day events were staged in Limpopo (Polokwane – 2020), Western Cape (Cape Town – 2019), Northern Cape (Kimberley – 2018), KwaZulu-Natal (Durban – 2017), Eastern Cape (Port Elizabeth – 2016), North West (Potchefstroom – 2015) and Free State (Bloemfontein – 2014). The first event was in the military suburb Thaba Tshwane south of the Pretoria CBD.