South Africa’s top soldier, SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Chief, General Solly Shoke, will remain the head of the national military machine until the end of May 2021.
This was revealed, not by the Corporate Communication Directorate of the SANDF, but in response to a Parliamentary question.
Democratic Alliance MP and shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais asked Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula why Shoke had not retired and “vacated his position” because he had reached the “normal retirement age (60)”.
The Minister told Marais provision is made for “a uniformed member of the SANDF to serve in the regular force after reaching the statutory retirement age” in the Defence Act. This is applicable to the age of 65.
“On 1 June 2016 the President extended the term of service of General Shoke for a period of five years,” according to the Ministerial response.
Shoke has been SANDF Chief since 2011 when he replaced now retired general Godfrey Ngwenya. He is the fourth SANDF Chief since democracy. The first was General Georg Meiring (27 April 1994 to 31 May 1998) replaced by General Siphiwe Nyanda who served from 1 June 1998 to 31 May 2005 and then Ngwenya, from 1 June 2005 to 1 May 2011.
Shoke is the country’s longest serving SANDF Chief and is expected to retire in May 2021 after a decade as South Africa’s top soldier.
He was born in Alexandra, Johannesburg on 15 August 1956 and left South Africa in the wake of the June 1976 uprisings to join Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK).
Post basic military training in Angola he served as an MK soldier both in and outside South Africa and was later selected to be part of the underground collective leadership (Operation Vula). He was a member of the ANC national organising department and a committee member involved in the country’s democratic transition with emphasis on defence force integration.
Ahead of integration into the then newly formed SANDF, Shoke went to Zimbabwe for the intermediate staff course. In the SANDF he did the Senior Command and Staff Duties Course and the Joint Staff Course.
Posts held include SA Army Chief before he was promoted to General as SANDF Chief and Director: Manpower Planning and also Chief: Human Resource Support.
He was commander of the joint Southern African Development Community (SADC) force during Operation Boleas in Lesotho in 1998.
According to the Department of Defence (DoD): “Shoke is a known disciplinarian, committed to a disciplined defence force and lives by military discipline. He committed himself to exemplary leadership and is an example of living the values of the SANDF. His actions are a testimony of integrity, loyalty and patriotism in an unbiased and non-political manner. He has served the national defence force with distinction in various capacities since the birth of the SANDF”.