The by-now customary medal parade that is part of Armed Forces Day last month saw Lieutenant General Derrick Mgwebi presented with the Mandela Medal (gold) for services performed during the illness and subsequent death of South Africa’s first democratically elected president.
Mgwebi, who retires from the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) at the end of this month (March), after a career highlighted by his terms as Joint Operations Chief and Head of the MONUSCO force in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) peacekeeping and peace support mission, became one of more than eight thousand five hundred soldiers and civilians to be awarded the Mandela Medal.
Numerous medal parades have been held across the length and breadth of South Africa since December 2014 when Mandela medals were first presented. Mandela died on December 5, 2013 and the medal was instituted by SANDF Chief General Solly Shoke to both mark his death and thank those in uniform as well as civilian medical personnel who assisted with his care and State funeral.
As Mgwebi comes to the end of a distinguished military career in South Africa there is still no indication of his country honouring him for service in Africa while wearing the blue beret of the United Nations.
SANDF Director: Corporate Communications, Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi, told defenceWeb there was “still no decision” on whether or how Mgwebi would be honoured for his time with the multi-national force in the DRC.
“I would imagine he will be given recognition of some sort by the UN, but as far as the SANDF is concerned no decision has yet been taken. It is being spoken about,” he said.
One who feels strongly the three star general should be recognised for his service in the DRC is respected military analyst Helmoed Heitman. He gave three reasons why Mgwebi’s continental service should be rewarded.
“He deserves a South African decoration because he had South African troops under his command and employed them to good effect. Additionally, his performance in the post was to the benefit of the reputation of both the SANDF and South Africa and finally, his duties as MONUSCO force commander were to the direct economic benefit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and South Africa,” Heitman told defenceWeb.