Speech: Ramaphosa on appointment of new SANDF leadership

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Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa on the appointment of the Chief of the South African National Defence Force and members of The Military Command of the South African National Defence Force, 14 April 2021.

Fellow South Africans,

I address you this evening as the Commander-in-Chief of the South African National Defence Force on new appointments to the leadership of our armed forces.

By virtue of the powers vested in me by our Constitution and legislation, it is my responsibility to appoint the Chief of the South African National Defence Force and the Military Command.

The Military Command is constituted by the Chiefs of the Services and Divisions of the South African National Defence.

These are the South African Army, South African Navy, South African Air Force and the South African Military Health Services.

In addition, the Military Command consists of the Chief of Joint Operations, Chief of Defence Intelligence, Chief of Logistics, Chief of Human Resources and Chief of Staff.

All the members of the Military Command are commanders of their respective services and divisions.

I have chosen to make a national announcement on these appointments as it is the most substantial change of command of the armed forces in several years.

It is fitting that I make these announcements now, in the month of April.

Not only is this Freedom Month, but it is also the month in which the SANDF celebrates the anniversary of its formation.

It was at midnight on the 27th of April 1994 that all former armed forces in this country ceased to exist and a newly-integrated South African National Defence Force was formed.

The SANDF brought together the forces of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the Azanian Peoples’ Liberation Army and the defence forces of the previous order: the SADF and the defence forces of the Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei.

It is a matter of profound significance that the SANDF was born on the same day as our democracy.

The SANDF has as its central mission the protection of the South African nation and the defence of our democratic constitutional order.

Since its formation nearly 27 years ago, the SANDF has been vital to the preservation of peace and stability in our land.

It has made a valuable contribution to the country’s development, and to strengthening the bonds of friendship and solidarity with other countries in our region and on our continent.

It has given effect to our determination to be a nation at peace with itself and the world.

Most recently, the SANDF has made a valuable contribution to the national response to the coronavirus pandemic, and continues to provide support as we strive to overcome this grave crisis.

The achievements of the SANDF over the last few years have taken place under the leadership of the outgoing Chief of the South African National Defence Force, General Solly Zacharia Shoke, who retires on 31 May 2021.

General Shoke retires after years of distinguished service to the people of our country.

A young activist of the 1976 generation, General Shoke became a combatant of Umkhonto we Sizwe and commander in various roles, ultimately serving in the SANDF after the integration process in April 1994.

He distinguished himself in the early days of integration as Major General and Chief Human Resources Support.

He took over the reins as Lieutenant General and Chief of the South African Army, a responsibility he held until his appointment as Chief of the SANDF 2011.

He has led the Military Command of the SANDF over the years with distinction, and especially as the principal policy adviser to the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans.

Since becoming President and Commander-in-Chief in 2018, I have admired and appreciated General Shoke’s professionalism, diligence and wise counsel.

On behalf of all South Africans, I wish to thank General Shoke for his outstanding service to the nation.

Several further appointments to the Military Command have been occasioned by the retirement of some service and division chiefs during 2020 and 2021.

These include the Chief of the South African Air Force and its commander, Lieutenant General (Retired) Zimpande Msimang, whose retirement took effect in September 2020.

I wish to thank him for ensuring that our Air Force continues to fulfil its responsibility.

I also take this opportunity to thank the outgoing or reassigned members of the Military Command, as follows:

– Chief of Joint Operations, Lieutenant General Rudzani Maphwanya

– Chief of Defence Intelligence, Lieutenant General Jeremiah Nyembe

– Chief of the South African Military Health Services, Surgeon General Zola Dabula.

As I thank them for their service to the country, both in the struggle for liberation and in the South African National Defence Force, it is a great honour to appoint the new Chief of the South African National Defence Force and new members of the Military Command.

With effect from 1 June 2021, Lieutenant-General Rudzani Maphwanya will assume the position of Chief of the South African National Defence Force.

Lt-Gen Maphwanya is a highly decorated officer with vast operational experience.

His military career began in 1978 in Umkhonto we Sizwe, and since 1994, he has held numerous positions in the SANDF.

He was appointed as General Officer Commanding the South African Special Forces in 2006 and as General Officer Commanding the SA Infantry Formation in 2016.

In 2019, Lt-Gen Maphwanya was appointed as Chief of Joint Operations.

Lt-Gen Maphwanya will be promoted from Lieutenant-General to General upon his appointment and will serve in this position for a period of five years.

The appointment of a new head of South Africa’s armed forces is accompanied by the following appointments to the Military Command:

Major-General Wiseman Simo Mbambo is appointed as Chief of the South African Air Force.

Major-General Mbambo began his military career in Umkhonto we Sizwe, where, among other things, he served as a training instructor in the Kibaxe Camp in Angola and was Commander in Charge of the former MK Military Aviation Group that underwent training in the Soviet Union from 1987 to 1991.

He has served in several positions in the South African Air Force, including General Officer Commanding Air Force Base Waterkloof and Chief of Staff Air Operations

Major-General Mbambo is currently Deputy Chief of Staff of the SANDF.

I am also pleased to announce the appointment of Major-General Siphiwe Sangweni as Chief of Joint Operations as of 1 June 2021.

The Joint Operations Division is responsible for internal and external operations conducted by the SANDF and for the employment of joint forces.

Major-General Sangweni began his military career in the underground structures of Umkhonto we Sizwe before undergoing military training in Tanzania.

He returned to South Africa in February 1994 as a Platoon Commander in the National Peacekeeping Force, before being integrated into the SANDF.

He has served in numerous operational deployments, including as part of AU and UN missions in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

He is currently serving as the General Officer Commanding Joint Operations HQ.

I am also pleased to announce that Major-General Ntshavheni Maphaha is appointed as Surgeon General with effect from 1 November 2021.

The Surgeon General commands the South African Military Health Service and plans and executives a health care plan to a patient population of over 300,000 people.

Major-General Maphaha began his professional career as a medical officer at Tshilidzini Hospital in Thohoyandou in 1992.

He has held several positions within the Military Health Service, including as the General Officer Commanding 1 Military Hospital from 2012 to May 2020.

Since June 2020, he has been serving as Chief Director Military Health Force Preparation.

I am also pleased to announce the appointment of Major-General Thalita Mxakato as Chief of Defence Intelligence as of 1 June 2021.

The Defence Intelligence Division provides combat-ready intelligence and counter-intelligence capabilities for employment in operations or joint and multinational force preparations.

Major-General Mxakato joined Umkhonto we Sizwe in 1983.

She completed her basic training in Angola and specialisation training in the German Democratic Republic.

She has served in the SANDF since its formation in 1994.

Before joining the Defence Intelligence Division in 2003, she served in the South African Military Health Services and the Defence Inspectorate Division.

She currently serves as Deputy Chief Defence Intelligence.

Once she assumes her position as the Chief of Defence Intelligence, Major-General Mxakato will become the first woman to be appointed to the Military Command of the SANDF.

This is a significant – and long overdue – development in the ongoing effort to advance the position of women in our armed forces.

Upon taking up their positions, the three Majors-General will be promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-General.

These appointments demonstrate the value of effective succession planning and the development of talent across all institutions as critical as the South African National Defence Force.

I am confident that under the leadership of these men and women, the SANDF will continue to fulfil its constitutional responsibility, to defend and protect the Republic, its territorial integrity and its people.

I have no doubt that as these distinguished individuals assume their new posts, they will also be conscious of the assignment that history has bestowed on them – to be the guardians of democracy, of peace and of freedom.



I thank you.