Bad weather puts paid to Armed Forces Day capability demo

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The ongoing La Niña weather phenomenon across much of South Africa has put paid to an expected highlight of Armed Forces Day (AFD): a South African National Defence Force (SANDF) capability demonstration in the northern KwaZulu-Natal port city Richards Bay.

The demonstrations, set down for 17 and 18 February at the University of Zululand sportsgrounds, were to be part of Armed Forces Day events but have been cancelled “due to unavoidable circumstances beyond our control,” the SANDF said in a statement on Friday. Heavy rain has hit KwaZulu-Natal and other provinces, prompting the declaration of a state of disaster in seven provinces.

Brigadier General Andries Mokoena Mahapa, Director Defence Corporate Communication, said the recent spate of bad weather would pose a risk to military hardware and personnel should the capability demonstrations go ahead. “It would also make access to the venue virtually impossible for members attending. We did attempt to come up with an alternative date but we were advised that this would be too impractical at such short notice. Therefore, the Chief of the SANDF General, Rudzane Maphwanya, would like to extend his heartfelt apologies for the cancellation, especially to those who have already made plans to attend.”

Mahapa said that the weather is something beyond the SANDF’s control, “but we intend to keep you entertained with other activities.”

These include a fan park at the uMhlathuze Sports ground, open from 15–19 February; sports clinics at the Umfolozi College Sports Grounds (15 to 19 February); a gala concert on 17 February at the University of Zululand; a 5 km fun run and walk on 18 February; an interfaith service at King Bhekizulu Hall on the 19th; and a night shoot at Alkantstrand Beach that will be open to the public between 17:00 and 19:00 on 19 February, while VIPs will attend a night shoot on 20 February.

From 16 to 19 February, navy ships (the frigate SAS Mendi, hydrographic survey vessel SAS Protea, and inshore patrol vessel SAS King Sekhukhune I) are open to the public at the Small Craft Harbour in Richards Bay, from 9-15:00.

The SA Air Force is running an aviation awareness campaign, and as part of this, 17 learners from Dlangezwa High School were taken up in a CASA 212 aircraft.

Armed Forces Day events will culminate with President Cyril Ramaphosa laying a wreath at the Empangeni Civic Centre at 10:00 on 21 February, a date commemorating the sinking of the SAS Mendi in 1917 with the loss of 614 SA Native Labour Corps members and 33 crew. This will be followed by the main military parade along Bullion Boulevard, followed by a Presidential address.