Speech: Solly Shoke during Change of Command parade, 28 May 2021



His Excellency, the President of the Republic of South Africa and Commander-in-Chief of the SANDF, President Ramaphosa, the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Ms Mapisa-Nqakula, Deputy Minister Mr Makwetla, the Incoming Chief of the SANDF, Gen Maphwanya, the Secretary for Defence, Ambassador Kudjoe, Chief of Staff of the SANDF, Lt Gen Yam, Justices Mlambo and Legodi, Chiefs of Services and Divisions current and retired, Chiefs of Defence Forces from the SADC Region, and the Continent, esteemed colleagues and members of the Military Attaché and Advisory Corps, Generals and Flag Officers, Senior Officers, Officers, Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, Soldiers, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

A special word of welcome for the Chiefs of Defence Forces from the SADC region. These are the people that made it possible for us to enjoy the democracy that we have because of the sacrifices that they have made in ensuring that South Arica becomes free. We are here as comrades, brothers and sisters united in purpose to bring peace in our region and contribute to peace and stability in the rest of the continent.

I am greatly humbled to stand before you in my capacity as the outgoing CSANDF. Never in my slightest dreams did I ever think I will live to see a South Africa that is free, let alone to serve in uniform and ascend to the highest office and rank and be at the helm of the SANDF. For that I would like to thank all of you who made it possible for us to be safe and live to see a free South Africa united in its diversity.

I would also like to thank my family for the sacrifices they have made and the support that they have given me throughout difficult times. It is through their support and sacrifices that I was able to take on the job as demanding as this one and succeed. Without you and your support and understanding, my work would not have been easy. Thank you very much!

I would like to thank both former President Zuma and President Ramaphosa for the confidence they had in me and for giving me the responsibility to serve our country and its people. That gave me strength and courage to carry on with my work duties with confidence, and I will forever be grateful.

To the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Ms Mapisa-Nqakula, my minister, my sister and my comrade, it was a pleasure working with you. I enjoyed each and every minute working alongside you. Your support made the burden of command a little easier. We may have differed at times but we never had irreconcilable differences. For that I thank you and will always value you guidance. In the same breathe, let me also thank the Deputy Minister for his unrelenting support during my tenure.

I would like to thank the Secretary for Defence for having created a conducive environment that allowed the defence force to operate. The Secretary for Defence has been the link between the defence force and parliament as an oversight body. We are grateful for your contribution.

Allow me to thank both Secretariat and members of the Military Command for their cooperation and support to us to implement our constitutional mandate. I would also like to thank commanders of the Defence Force at different levels who ensured that decisions taken by Military Command are being implemented.

My special word of thanks goes to men and women at the sharp end who continue doing the work and execute some of the most difficult tasks being given to the SANDF. At times these soldiers are the least acknowledged. To you, I would like to say that I am very proud of you.

You have made this defence force – the force that it is today and executed all your tasks sometimes under difficult circumstances with dwindling resources at your disposal. You have done well in peacekeeping and internal operations, whilst supporting our people in many ways including crime combatting. You have also been at the fore front in the battle against the CoronaVirus ravaging our country.

Your successes are too numerous to elaborate on, however that is demonstrable by the confidence that our people have in you because each time there is a problem the first port of call is the SANDF even in areas we have no expertise in. This is so because our people believe that there is no task greater than your resolve.

At the heart of your successes is the discipline that we have as soldiers. Discipline is the cornerstone for any organisation to succeed. It was through your discipline that we were able to succeed in all missions. Indeed sometimes like all human beings, we have made mistakes here and there but from the platform where I operate, the good that you have done far outweighs the mistakes committed.

Remember he who does not work, neither shall make mistakes. Do not despair or be discouraged by the negative publicity that you sometimes get. However, we must learn from the mistakes we make and move forward as better soldiers.

Equally important, it is also time that our people start appreciating the good that the SANDF is doing for this country and its people because we are the servants of the people and shall continue serving our people at all material times.

I call upon all of us in uniform to rise above our personal interests including political interests and serve South Africa and her people as loyal servants, for their safety and security lies in your hands. We should also collectively begin getting rid of some negative elements in our midst who serve their selfish interests and thus bring our good name into disrepute.
They tarnish the image and good work that we do and the work that some refuse to acknowledge.

Let us all close ranks during this difficult period and preserve the little resources at our disposal so that we are able to continue executing our constitutional mandate as enshrined in the constitution. We must continue to do more with less in the midst of these difficult economic times our country faces.

To that effect, let me thank our Cuban comrades in capacitating our members to recover and restore some of the capabilities that we nearly lost. To you I say you have saved this country billions of Rands, contrary to some of the negative narrative that is circulating in the public space. You shall always be in our hearts for your sacrifices and support to the SANDF.

As Chief of the SANDF, I served as part of the collective and all the successes that we have recorded were as a result of that unity of purpose.

As I retire from uniform and my life of service, I am confident to leave behind men and women who are committed to the Constitution of the Republic and the people of South Africa, under the capable leadership of Gen Maphwanya.

When we speak of the rainbow nation, it is about time that South Africa looks at the SANDF for integrating and putting together people from diverse backgrounds for a common purpose that South Africans can be proud of.

The birth of the SANDF demonstrates that if we focus more on what unites us as a people, we shall always overcome whatever challenges that confronts us, and succeed. Let us all unite behind our nation.

I thank you and God Bless You.