Using “full” SANDF uniform to advertise birthdays is a no-go

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A new use for what the national defence force calls “full uniform” has emerged from Gauteng’s Vaal Triangle, prompting a strong response from the South African National Defence Force.

The Directorate: Corporate Communication (DCC) on Sunday 11 September said in a statement: “The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is alarmed at a social media photo of a person in full uniform of the defence [force] advertising his birthday party which will take place at venue in the Vaal. Members of the public are warned it is a criminal offence to be in possession of any SANDF uniform or related artefacts.

“The SANDF wants to state clearly it is not in any way, shape or form associated with this event.

“Chief SANDF [General Rudzani Maphwanya] strongly condemns this irresponsible action and behaviour by impersonating the officer of the SANDF. This matter will be pursued further and the perpetrator will have to face the full might of the law.”

In the offending Facebook post, the person celebrating his birthday is referred to as the ‘Vaal President’ and wears what appears to be the uniform of the Chief of the SANDF along with epaulettes and medals. The event was scheduled for Saturday, 10 September, according to the promotional posters.

The owner of the Vaal President account said he was “sad and broken into pieces” at the prospect of facing charges “for a pic that was even photoshopped.”

The weekend statement is not the first and will probably not to be the last for those tasked with media relations in the SANDF to respond to illegal use of military uniform or, as the latest one has it “artefacts”.

A brief search brought to light a number of instances of uniform abuse or illegal use including the appearance of SANDF camouflage work dress in a television drama in 2020. DCC director at that time Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi said the unauthorised use of official military work dress as costume on television was “of immeasurable concern” to military authorities.

Two years ago, southern Gauteng was again in the beady eye of the military when a shop owner was illegally selling “military uniform,” government news agency SAnews reported. The guilty party was arrested by Johannesburg-based military police following a complaint, reportedly made by a soldier.

As with previous instances of illegal use of military uniform, the SANDF warns anybody illegally wearing any of its uniforms, including the daily camouflage work dress or its camouflage pattern, is guilty of an offence in terms of the Defence Act. If a person is found guilty a fine or five years behind bars can be handed down.

There have, as far as defenceWeb can ascertain, not been any recent convictions or fines issued regarding illegal use or sale of official SANDF uniforms.

With November looming ever larger on the horizon, local military watchers are keeping an eagle eye on announcements regarding a planned SA Army divisional exercise. First public knowledge of the exercise came when CArmy, Lieutenant General Lawrence Mbatha, told a communication period with landward force headquarters personnel of the exercise in July. The three-star told those present the exercise would see the “public debut” of the new work dress, 19 months after it became known plans were underway to replace the current work dress, taken into service as part of the Soldier 2000 project.

Reasons given for replacing the daily dress of the majority of soldiers, as well as personnel in other services and divisions, included the existing camouflage pattern and uniform design being “compromised and old fashioned” and not “catering for the African body profile”. “No female design available” was given as another reason for replacement.