February 21 – the central date for the national defence force’s annual showcase Armed Forces Day event – is fast approaching and as yet there’s no indication of whether it will happen or not.
The 2021 iteration of the week-long event, scheduled for Mbombela, did not take place due to restrictions imposed in terms of the national state of disaster declared to prevent and contain the spread of COVID-19.
The Mpumalanga capital was set to host edition number nine of Armed Forces Day and would have been the last province in the first round of these SA National Defence Force (SANDF) events to welcome the country’s armed forces.
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, aptly, in the military suburb Thaba Tshwane south of the Pretoria CBD with rain forcing a hasty change of venue from the military sports ground to the nearby Thaba Tshwane town hall.
At the time of publishing the Directorate: Corporate Communication (DCC) of the SANDF said, in response to a defenceWeb enquiry: “Decisions pertaining to Armed Forces Day are not finalised, as soon as higher authorities confirm whether Armed Forces will happen or not we will communicate such information (sic)”.
Then president Jacob Zuma officialised Armed Forces Day in 2012. A proclamation read, in part: “Armed Forces Day is to be a day on which the South African population honours the men and women of the SANDF by affirming their support and gratitude to them for upholding the Constitution of the Republic and defending the territorial integrity of the Republic and protecting its people. It is for this reason that Armed Forces Day coincides with the commemoration of the sinking of the SS Mendi on 21 February 1917”.