Retired general Jannie Geldenhuys, a former chief of the then SA Defence Force (SADF), died in George on Monday, aged 83.
He served as chief of what was South Africa’s national defence force prior to democracy and integration which saw the establishment of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).
Paying tribute to the man who led from the front during the Bush War, Freedom Front Plus (FF+) leader Pieter Groenewald said when Geldenhuys retired in 1990 “it could be said with confidence he was head of one of the strongest and most feared militaries in Africa with weapons and skills comparable to the best in the world”.
The current leadership of South Africa’s military – Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Secretary for Defence Sam Gulube and General Solly Shoke, SANDF Chief – extended “heartfelt condolences to the family, loved ones and friends of the late general Jannie Geldenhuys”.
Geldenhuys was born ibn Kroonstad on February 5, 1935. He matriculated in Bethlehem in 1952 and joined the army as a volunteer a year later. Initial training was at the Military Gymnasium, then based in Voortrekkerhoogte (today Thaba Tshwane). He obtained the B.Mil degree and was then posted to 1 Special Service Battalion. Later his military career saw him being given higher command and he served as commander of the then South West Africa Command before being named General Officer Commanding of the SWA Territory Force. Following this term he was named SA Army Chief and then SADF Chief on October 31, 1985. In this role he was part of the negotiating team that ended the Bush War in 1989 after 23 years of fighting.
In his tribute Groenewald said Geldenhuys commanded respect from his own troops and officer corps as well as his opponents.
“He was an extraordinary soldier from a military point as well as from the political and humanitarian aspects of warfare.”
Maroela Media reports one of Geldenhuys’ former senior colleagues now retired major general Roland de Vries as saying he was “an unbelievable person and a superb leader of men who enjoyed the respect of all”.
He is also spoken of as being a general who led by example and was often in the forefront of advances and attacks in Angola.
A Geldenhuys family spokesman is reported as saying he would be remembered as the defence force chief on whose watch South African history took a markedly different route. “His tenure saw times of massive conflict both in and outside South Africa.”
Geldenhuys will be cremated in a private service and a memorial service will be held on September 20 at 10h00 at the NG Kerk, Pretoria East, corner Lynnwood and Kirkness streets.