Four of the ten oldest Reserve Force units in the country retain their original names.
They are Umvoti Mounted Rifles, established in 1864, Durban Light Infantry, formed in 1873, Kimberley Regiment, dating back to 1876 and the Buffalo Volunteer Rifles in East London, founded in 1883.
South Africa’s oldest Reserve Force unit – the Natal Carbineers – was formed in 1855 and renamed the Ingobamakhosi Carbineers. The KwaZulu-Natal regiment is one of 52 renamed last month. Reports have it that the Ingobamakhosi was a unit in the Zulu army that won the Battle of Isandlwana.
The new names reflect “the military traditions and history of indigenous African military formations and the liberation armies involved in the freedom struggle”. The new names were made public in August after almost six years of engagement and consultation. An SA Army Bulletin at the time stated “unit names adopted are appropriate to the new South Africa and enhance cohesiveness and regimental pride within the Reserves”.
The second oldest regiment in South Africa, the Cape Town Rifles widely known as “The Dukes”, and formed in the same year as the Natal Carbineers, is now the Chief Langalibalele Rifles (CLR). Langalibalele was reportedly king of the amaHlubi tribe in what is today KwaZulu-Natal. He was born on the eve of the arrival of European settlers in the province. After conflict with Zulu king Mpande he fled with his people to the then colony of Natal in 1848.
The Cape Field Artillery formed in 1857 is now the Nelson Mandela Artillery Regiment while Grahamstown’s First City Regiment is the Chief Makhanda Regiment, the new name of the Eastern Cape university town.
The last regiment in the top 10 oldest to receive a new name is Prince Alfred’s Guard in Port Elizabeth. This regiment, formed in 1877, is now the Chief Maqoma Regiment. He was a Xhosa warrior born in 1798 who garnered the reputation of being one of the great Xhosa chiefs.