South Africa celebrated its 17th Freedom Day in Pretoria with its largest military parade in six years. Ceremonial expert Colonel Gerrit Bezuidenhoud said this was the biggest military parade since 2004. The march past, which he described as an “amended brigade size” consisted of 1600 personnel from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Medical Health Services.
They were joined by 70 members of the new National Rural Youth Service Corps and some 400 cultural performers and bikers.
This is the first time military veterans have taken part in a Freedom Day parade, with about 400 sporting their new green and black uniforms featuring the emblem of the new Department of Military Veterans (DMV) and carrying the acronym of the South African National Military Veterans’ Association (SANMVA).
The veterans, who came from all over the country, represented The Azanian People’s Liberation Army Military Veterans’ Association (APLAMVA), the Azanian National Liberation Army Military Veterans’ Association (AZANLAMVA), the Council of Military Veterans’ Organizations (CMVO), Mkhonto We Sizwe Military Veterans’ Association (MKMVA) and the Veterans’ Associations of the former TBVC territories: Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei.
Captain Franklin “Lin” Barratt, who spent the five years from 1958 to 1963 in the South African Air Force (SAAF) flying fighters, maritime aircraft and eventually transporting paratroops, said of the new uniform: “It’s a wonderful thing to have something you can call your own, as it were. It’s certainly good for the image and status of the veterans. I think they’ve been overlooked to a large extent, particularly the previously advantaged. I think the general man in the street is making that effort to try and get closer. We continue living in our own ghettoes but the barriers are breaking down. When I went in to get my uniform on Monday I was one of only six or seven, maybe eight paler people surrounded by 300 or 400 (Black people). Everybody seemed to be quite friendly, saying ‘hello’ and shaking your hand. I think you could say in all there was a definite feeling of goodwill.”
President Jacob Zuma as the commander-in-chief of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) accompanied by Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, Minister of Arts and Culture Paul Mashatile, Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane, reviewed the march past from a podium in front of the Sheraton Hotel.
The colourful military ceremony included a National Salute, a Guard of Honour by the National Ceremonial Guard, a 21 gun salute with a Salute Flight by three AgustaWestland A109 light utility helicopters with two national flags and the SANDF flag escorted by six Denel Oryx helicopters.
This was followed by the brigade march-past comprising of marching columns, a mass fly past by the South African Air Force, the military veterans and a cultural parade.
The fly past included five BAE Systems Hawk Mk120 in diamond formation with the central aircraft in the national colours, the Boeing BBJ VIP transport escorted by four Saab Gripen advanced light fighters, a “pointer formation” of seven aircraft, to wit three Beechcraft BE20 King Air and four Cessna C208 Caravans. This was followed by three Douglas C47TP Dakota, two Airbus Military (Casa) C212 Aviocars, nine Pilatus PC7 MkII trainers and three Lockheed Martin C130BZ transports.