Tomorrow will be the first time in its almost 20 year existence that the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) bestows battle honours.
SANDF Chief General Solly Shoke will confer this singular military honour on three units that took part in the ill-fated Battle for Bangui in the Central African Republic (CAR) last March. The final South African death toll was 15, with two soldiers succumbing to their wounds after being casevaced back to 1 Military Hospital in Thaba Tshwane.
1 Parachute Battalion, 5 Reconnaissance Regiment and 7 Medical Battalion will from tomorrow on proudly carry recognition of their involvement in the CAR on unit and regimental flags.
All three units are set to take part in Friday’s Armed Forces Day parade at AFB Bloemspruit and this will be the first public display of the new additions to their colours.
The CAR tasking was only the second time in democratic South Africa’s history that a SANDF military force, and not a peacekeeping force, had seen combat in a foreign country. The first was in 1998 when about 600 South African soldiers and other defence elements moved into Lesotho to deal with a deteriorating security situation in the landlocked country. South Africa was supported by Botswana in that intervention force, approved by the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
In the CAR, as part of Operation Vimbezela, South Africa went it alone with soldiers already on the ground as part of a detachment to assist in training soldiers in the landlocked country bordered by Chad, Sudan, South Sudan and the DRC.
Speaking in Pretoria after the South Africans were evacuated from CAR, Shoke said the about 200 soldiers had taken on a far superior force, numbering 3 000 rebels, for between 13 and 18 hours. The combat abilities of the South Africans were such that rebels eventually surrendered under a white flag, Shoke told a media briefing.
SANDF Commander-in-Chief, President Jacob Zuma, will confer medals for heroism on soldiers who survived the Battle for Bangui during the Armed Forces Day parade.