The roar of a Gripen fighter overhead the Nasrec show grounds marked the opening ceremony of the 2019 Rand Show, which was officiated by Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula on Friday. The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is one of the biggest exhibitors at this year’s event.
“Our soldiers have been patriotically exhibiting and showcasing their capabilities at this crowd-pulling event without fail since 2011 and have endeared themselves to visitors from all walks of life, educating our people about the military’s role in society and towards the defence of our constitutional dispensation,” Mapisa-Nqakula said during the opening speech.
“The platform that the Rand Easter Show affords the South African National Defence Force is key to exposing the citizens of Gauteng and the country at large to the capabilities, state-of-the-art technologies and the career opportunities that abound within our national defence force.”
The minister said she expected 400 000 visitors to attend the show, giving the SANDF the opportunity to educate them about the military’s role in safeguarding the territorial integrity and sovereignty of South Africa. This includes helping oversee the upcoming national elections, assisting Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe following Cyclone Idai, and rehabilitating the Vaal water treatment system. “The People’s National Defence Force is also involved in Matatiele to build bridges between cut-off villages and safely connect school children to their places of learning,” the minister said, adding that, “there is so much good that our National Defence Force is doing, albeit on a limited budget.”
The SANDF also uses the Rand Show as a platform to showcase the career opportunities in the military. “I can say without any fear of contradiction that there is no career you will not find in the SANDF,” Mapisa-Nqakula said. This includes pilots, engineers, health professionals, divers, navigators, intelligence personnel, chefs, scientists, accountants, administrators, communicators and ICT specialists.
After the minister’s speech, the SANDF performed its two hour long arena programme, which began with a simulated ambush of SA Army soldiers by a hostile force and evacuation of a downed Gripen fighter pilot. After the hostiles had been beaten back, soldiers demonstrated a wide variety of capabilities, including bridge assembly, dog handling, martial arts, gun run and firing and disassembly and reassembly of a Land Rover in under ten minutes. The different arms of service performed precision drills while soldiers demonstrated their skills on motorcycles, including jumping over parked motorcycles and through a wall of fire. The show ended with a mock kidnapping of the ‘defence minister’ and rescue by the Military Police.
Aside from the Gripen, the only other aircraft present on the opening day were the PC-7s of the Silver Falcons aerobatic display team, which performed their routine for show-goers. A single A109 was on static display, alongside equipment from all four branches of the South African National Defence Force, including Military Police and SA Military Health Service – the military once again occupied several thousand square metres of the show grounds with its exhibits. Static displays feature Olifant main battle tanks, Ratel and Rooikat armoured vehicles and most weapons in use by the national defence force from the R4/R5 through to the G6 self-propelled gun.
This year’s Rand Show – which celebrates 125 years of existence- opened on Good Friday (19 April) with Sunday 28 April the last day of the event. The SANDF’s arena demonstrations take place from 11:00 to 13:00 between 19 and 22 April.