Defence and Military Veterans Deputy Minister Kebby Maphatsoe says after a six year journey, the department will formally launch the South African Cape Corps Military Veterans Association (SACCMVA) during a three-day conference.
The launch of the Association comes after the department had to bring splinter groups from the association around one table since it was first launch in 2009.
“The Department of Military Veterans through the leadership of the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans will be launching the SACCMVA from the 28th to 30th August 2015 in Cape Town.
“This is in pursuit of achieving the department’s constitutional mandate regarding those who suffered for freedom and those who contributed to the building of our country as also outlined in the prescripts of the Military Veterans Act 18 of 2011
“This launch is the culmination of a lengthy process that had to ensure that the basis for the establishment of this formation meets the legal requirements as enjoyed by the Military Veterans Act.
“It took us almost six years to get where we are today,” the Deputy Minister said.
This comes after years of discussions around the government formally recognising the SACCMVA as a military veterans association and some individual members of the Cape Corps joining the Reserve Force as part of the South African National Defence Force, reports official government news agency SAnews.
The SACCMVA is an association that comprises former members of South African Cape Corps (SACC), who were deployed to countries such as Angola during the Bush War from 1966 to 1989.
Upon being disbanded in 1992, most of the SACC members could unfortunately not be integrated into the then South African Defence Force (SADF) and did not receive assistance of being re-skilled or being given alternative employment.
The Deputy Minister said the launch of the SACCMVA was significant as it would help restore the dignity of the members of the SACC.
“Military veterans must play a role in assisting some of them to re-integrate in society. You know some of them who come from war have not been properly counselled. So it is the duty of the leadership who will be elected during the conference to go and look for all former members so that we bring together so that they benefit from the benefits that we are giving to military veterans.
“This recognition goes with the responsibility that the veterans of the SACC, knowing the acute pain of racial conflict and its capacity to lay life and the country to waste should stand in honour to uphold the Constitution of the republic and ensure that they send the message in their communities that the future of our country can only be vested in a non-racial, non-sexist and united South Africa,” he said.
As one of the oldest organised military units in the South African history, the origins of the Cape Corps date back to 1781 from the Khoikhoi at the Cape during the first Dutch administration. At the time they were called the “Corps of Bastaard Hottentotten”.
Two battalions were raised during World War One (1915) “for hostilities only”. The white officered units were allowed Coloured non-commissioned officers and they were promoted from the Coloureds-only ranks. The units distinguished themselves in Tanzania (then Tanganyika) and Palestine, most especially at Square Hill near Megiddo in Palestine in September 1918. It was subsequently disbanded in 1919.
White insecurity ensured the unit, when re-established on May 8, 1940, remained initially unarmed. Despite this insult, Coloureds rallied to the flag and served as transport troops, storemen, musicians and stretcher bearers. Cape Corps stretcher bearers earned enduring fame for their bravery under fire at El Alamein, but sadly not the thanks, for long, of their government. According to regiments.org, the SACC was constituted as a noncombatant service corps with a pioneer battalion and five motor transport companies, later expanded to include motorised infantry battalions, prisoner of war escort and guard battalions, peaking in strength at 23 000. It was disbanded in 1945.
The Cape Corps was next re-established in September 1963 as the SA Coloured Corps Training Centre, tasked with training Coloureds in support roles, such as chefs, clerks, stretcher bearers, medical and health orderlies. By 1965 the Corps band was already earning kudos on the national stage. In February 1966 the first batch of lance corporals were promoted to full corporal and in November the first corporal was promoted sergeant. Further promotions followed – in 1970 the first warrant officers were appointed. Around that time public pressure also forced a name change and “Coloured” was substituted with “Cape”.
In January 1973 the unit started training one-year service volunteers and from that year Coloureds could also be commissioned as officers. The first 11 were commissioned in May 1975. In 1976 infantry training commenced and later that year a fully trained company was detached on operational duty – the first since 1916. During this deployment and officer and two NCOs were wounded in a contact with insurgents. In 1978 the unit received its colours – bearing its World War One battle honours. On the last day of 1979 the Cape Corps expanded into a corps school, 1 SACC Battalion and the SACC Maintenance Unit. On December 31, 1985 the corps school was disbanded and 2 SACC Battalion was established the next day, as was the Cape Regiment, a segregated reserve unit. 3 SACC was established at Kimberley.
On March 31, 1992 all SACC units were disbanded. The next day 9 South African Infantry Battalion was established at Eersterivier, Cape Town in their place. No reason for the name change was ever given.