Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu has told the South African Cape Corps Military Veterans Association (SACCMVA) they have her ear. She Saturday addressed 300 former members of the Cape Corps at the official launch of the SACCMVA at Bonnievale in the Western Cape.
Sisulu held a meeting with the SACCMVA steering committee three months ago to look into among others, issues of SACCMVA’s recognition as a military veterans association and individual members of the Cape Corps joining the Reserve Force of the South African National Defence Force. “At that meeting Minister Sisulu promised to respond to concerns raised by the association and has since delivered to her promises,” her office said in a statement.
“We have acknowledged that we should have put together systems to support you earlier in 1994, it took us long to get here, but we are here now and together we must move forward”, Sisulu said in the statement. “In my budget speech I said ‘I have recently learned about the plight of members who served in the South African Cape Corps (SACC) which was disbanded during 1992, before the integration of forces which formed the current SANDF. Most of those members could not be accommodated in the then-South African Defence Force (SADF) units at the time and they neither received any meaningful benefits nor assistance in being re-skilled for alternative employment,” said Sisulu.
The SACCMVA, an association which represents former members of the SACC who were deployed in countries such as Namibia and Angola during the “Bush War” will now see their dignity being restored, Sisulu’s statement said. “This government is committed to restoring the dignity of military veterans and ensuring that we support all economic and social programmes of our military veterans. We want to honour and give what is due to our military veterans”, Sisulu added.
“I have instructed the Chief of the SANDF (CSANDF) to ensure that some of you who can still participate in the Reserve Force of the SANDF are urgently incorporated into the reserve force. I have also asked the CSANDF to look at the possibility of incorporating some of you in the SANDF Works Regiment to train our young soldiers and also help maintain our buildings”.
“You have my commitment that tomorrow is brighter and together we can do more. Your lives will never be the same again” noted Sisulu. The launch was attended by the President of the South African National Military Veterans Association Kebby Maphatsoe and Director General for the Department of Military Veterans, Tsepe Motumi.
The Cape Corps was one of the oldest organised military units in South African history, tracing its ancestry back to a “Corps of Bastaard Hottentotten” raised in 1781 from the Khoikhoi at the Cape during the first Dutch administration. However, indigenous troops assisted the Dutch as early as 1661 when “Kaapmans” (Cape men) stood with the colonists against the “Gonnamans”. The corps, retained by subsequent British and Dutch administrations – under various names, had both a military and a policing function – police services as they are known today, were then not yet in being. Sadly, the Cape Corps’s history, then and later was intertwined with white suspicion and racism.
Two battalions were raised during World War One (1915) “for hostilities only”. The white officered units were allowed Coloured non-commissioned officers and they were promoted from the Coloureds-only ranks. The units distinguished themselves in Tanzania (then Tanganyika) and Palestine, most especially at Square Hill near Megiddo in Palestine in September 1918. It was subsequently disbanded in 1919.
White insecurity ensured the unit, when re-established on May 8, 1940, remained initially unarmed. Despite this insult, Coloureds rallied to the flag and served as transport troops, storemen, musicians and stretcher bearers. Cape Corps stretcher bearers earned enduring fame for their bravery under fire at El Alamein, but sadly not the thanks, for long, of their government. According to regiments.org (www.regiments.org/regiments/southafrica/inf/capecorp.htm, accessed May 31, 2006), the SACC was constituted as a noncombatant service corps with a pioneer battalion and five motor transport companies, later expanded to include motorised infantry battalions, prisoner of war escort and guard battalions, peaking in strength at 23 000. It was disbanded in 1945.
The Cape Corps was next re-established in September 1963 as the SA Coloured Corps Training Centre, tasked with training Coloureds in support roles, such as chefs, clerks, stretcher bearers, medical and health orderlies. By 1965 the Corps band was already earning kudos on the national stage. In February 1966 the first batch of lance corporals were promoted to full corporal and in November the first corporal was promoted sergeant. Further promotions followed – in 1970 the first warrant officers were appointed. Around that time public pressure also forced a name change and “Coloured” was substituted with “Cape”. In January 1973 the unit started training one-year service volunteers and from that year Coloureds could also be commissioned as officers. The first 11 were commissioned in May 1975. In 1976 infantry training commenced and later that year a fully trained company was detached on operational duty – the first since 1916. During this deployment and officer and two NCOs were wounded in a contact with insurgents. In 1978 the unit received its colours – bearing its World War One battle honours. On the last day of 1979 the Cape Corps expanded into a corps school, 1 SACC Battalion and the SACC Maintenance Unit. On December 31, 1985 the corps school was disbanded and 2 SACC Battalion was established the next day, as was the Cape Regiment, a segregated reserve unit. 3 SACC was established at Kimberley.
On March 31, 1992 all SACC units were disbanded. The next day 9 South African Infantry Battalion was established at Eersterivier, Cape Town in their place. No reason for the name change was ever given.
Cape of Good Hope2
East Africa 1916-7
East Africa 1917-8