General Shoke takes command


The newly promoted General Solly Shoke will today take command of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). South Africa’s ambassador to Angola, General (Ret) Nhlanhla Ngwenya, will formally hand over to his successor while President Jacob Zuma, the Commander-in-Chief of the SANDF, looks on.

Zuma appointed Ngwenya ambassador last year and tipped Shoke for the military’s top job this month. It is still unclear who will succeed Shoke as Chief of the SA Army. In terms of the Defence Amendment Act passed last year, the appointment is also Zuma’s to make. Many insiders consider the General Officer Commanding the Infantry Formation, Major General Themba Nkabinde, the front runner.

The SANDF says the parade will include a swearing-in-ceremony and a General Salute consisting of a 17-round gun salute and a salute flight of two AgustaWestland A109 light utility helicopters with the front helicopter displaying the National Flag of the Republic and the rear helicopter displaying that of the SANDF. A Denel Rooivalk Mk1 combat support helicopter will act as flag escort.

A CASA C212 light transport will drop ten parachutists to hand over the scroll to Shoke. A mass fly past will then take place, consiting of a formation flight of four A109, two “AS-32” (Denel Oryx) helicopters and a Rooivalk. The will be followed by a flyby by a Beechcraft BE-30 KingAir and four Cessna C208 Caravan in a transport aircraft formation flight, followed by a C212 and two Douglas C47TP Dakotas, two Lockheed Martin C130BZ Hercules medium transports, nine Pilatus PC7 MkII trainer aircraft and five Silver Falcons in formation flight, the latter also flying the PC7.

The display continues with four BAE Systems Hawk Mk120 fighter trainer aircraft and five Saab Gripen fighters. A Rooivalk, two “AS-32” and five Silver Falcons will then make a Bow Salute and the Silver Falcons a further flying display.

Shoke was born in Alexandra township, Johannesburg, in August 1956. He received his basic military training in Angola and served in various capacities in the African National Congress’ military wing uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) including as part of the Underground Leadership Collective (Operation Vula) and Commander of the Transvaal Machinery. He transferred to the South African National Defence Force when MK was incorporated into it in April 1994.

In 1998 then-Maj Gen Shoke commanded the South African Development Community forces during Operation Boleas in Lesotho. He was promoted to Chief of the South African Army in 2004.