Address: C Army Lt Gen VR Masondo to the Armour Symposium



Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen …

I acknowledge the presence of various general officers, a number of guests from abroad, military attachés, commanding officers and members of the media.

We are here to participate in the South African Armour Symposium with the aim to deliberate the deployment of light and medium armour capabilities in internal and external security operations.

Our government’s initiatives, active participation in, and membership of regional security bodies and mechanisms, as well as those of the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN), require a collective approach to solving Africa’s problems to create a safe and stable environment for economic development and prosperity for all. The focus falls heavily on economic realities and challenges, but also spills over to the military. We should therefore understand the reason for the existence of bodies like the African Union (AU), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and its security organ, the Interstate Security and Defence Subcommittee, as well as the existence of the African Standby Force with specific reference to the SADC Brigade (SADCBRIG). These bodies and organisations have all been established and put into place to ensure collective security on the continent and in the region, and to ensure adherence to mutual defence pacts and agreements.

Many of the security problems or issues in sub-Saharan Africa are shared by neighbouring countries. Challenges like poverty, cross-border drug trafficking and illegal immigrants, refugees and internally displaced people, acute debt crises, wide-spread disease, environmental degradation and proliferation of small arms, to name but a few, require concerted and deliberate efforts to create and maintain peaceful co-existence in Africa and a better life for all.

Regional stability and development can be assured and addressed meaningfully only through political and economic reform (democracy), social upliftment and development and interstate cooperation. The worst-case scenario is the collapse of states, which almost results invariably in widespread or general disregard for law and order and chaos.

The current South African White Paper on Defence (under review at the moment) defines regional peace support operations as a function of the SANDF. This will be done in compliance with international obligations and within the international and regional security architecture.

As a fully fledged member of the international community, South Africa will fulfil its international obligations by participating in international peace support operations (PSO). PSO is a reality as South Africa is currently contributing forces to several countries all over Africa.

South Africa’s military is a landward force in the main. Of this land capability an armour capability forms an indispensable part of any army worth mentioning. Currently there are no South African armour forces deployed in Africa – neither with prime mission equipment (PME) nor in a secondary role, except for tank and armoured car crews in an infantry role deployed in Operation CORONA, which entails internal border safeguarding operations. Although the likelihood of deploying light or medium mechanized forces in current peace missions is, for the time being, not foreseen; doctrine is required for such an eventuality. It is for this reason that the South African Army will continue to debate and research matters in this regard as was evident during previous Seminars 21 as well as previous symposia of this nature.

An organisation like the SADCBRIG probably needs light and mobile forces, including armour, with a rapid deployable capability for either early-entry operations or sustained operations in theatre. This capability will provide for humanitarian intervention, peacekeeping, peace enforcement, conflict prevention and force protection, all part of complex peacekeeping, to name but a few. This force must be robust enough to ensure that it can operate across the spectrum of military conflict, which will be inconceivable without armour. The RSA therefore requires a balanced military force, comprising light mobile and also medium to heavy assets in order to tailor make forces to counter the specific threat. Such force groupings will naturally be made up from the South African Army’s inherent capabilities.

This one-day symposium will thus focus on the deployment of light and medium armour capabilities in internal and external security operations. It will analyse current trends on the continent, listen to lessons learnt by nations who have experienced such scenarios, look at possible technological solutions and consider options in the preparation of our forces for the right conflict. The outcome and result of this will most certainly add value to processes already in motion to further develop land doctrine for the employment of armour and mechanized forces during peace, conflict and war, thereby creating a relevant and ready army for 2020 and beyond.

Against this background I wish to thank you all for participating in this event. I extend a special word of thanks to the guest speakers, local and from abroad, and also to the sponsors for staging a symposium of this caliber. Your generosity and support is much appreciated.

I am looking forward to the presentations and deliberations.

I now formally and officially declare the South African Armour Symposium 2011 open.

Thank you.