Army Reserve Force unit name change process still ongoing

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The name review process in the SA Army Reserves is still underway and expectations are it will be finalised by the end of the first quarter of next year.

The process was first announced by SA Army chief, Lieutenant General Vusi Masondo in May last year in an effort to make the names of particularly Army Reserve Force units more representative of democratic South Africa. Masondo stressed there was “nothing sinister” about it and he was calling on units members to suggest new and more suitable names in an effort to build regimental pride.

Brigadier General Gerhard Kamffer, Director Army Reserves, told defenceWeb the name review steering committee had met recently to consider some proposals put forward by units and regiments.
“We have started with a process to engage all Formation General Officers Commanding to discuss their proposals,” he said adding the intention was to “reach a new balance”.

He was not prepared to make public any of the suggested name changes put forward saying the name review steering committee was aiming to finalise the process by March/April next year.

Once Kamffer and his committee are happy with input they will prepare a submission for Masondo.

Included in the criteria for name changes are that units cannot be named after living people. When the name of a deceased person is nominated he or she must have played a significant role in the country’s military history. Names such as that of Doman, a Khoi-Khoi leader; Gonnema, leader of the Cochogue in the second Khoi-Khoi conflict in 1673; Xhosa chief Ngqika; Field Marshall Jan Smuts; Major General Dan Pienaar; Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu and Chris Hani have been put forward as suggestions.

Where place names have changed since democracy, such as Transvaal and Natal, these should not be part of unit or regiment names. “The temptation to simply update a name to the new name should be avoided wherever possible and consideration given to a new and imaginative name,” Kamffer said earlier this year.

Ethnic and tribal names are a no-no. Scottish, Irish, Zulu and Xhosa are given as examples that should not be included in new unit name suggestions but the traditions associated with these could be maintained via regimental bands or ceremonial sub-units.



Bringing in new names for Army Reserve Force units is part of Project Phoenix, started more than 10 years ago with the aim of rejuvenating the part-time component of the landward force. This has over the years seen more money going to Army Reserves (R21 million in 2003/04 compared to R625 million in 2012/13) as well as far more utilisation of reserves in both continental peace support and border protection deployments.