The South African Army has a new chief: Lieutenant General Vusi Masondo, previously Chief Army Force Preparation. He replaces General Solly Shoke who was promoted Chief of the SANDF in June. Acting C Army, Major General Les Rudman becomes Deputy C Army, a post not staffed in the last decade.
Lt Gen Derrick Mgwebi has been appointed the Chief of Joint Operations (CJ Ops), replacing Lt Gen Themba Matanzima who it appears is moving to diplomatic service. Mgwebi was Chief of Human Resources (CHR), but was also acting CJ Ops for the last several months. The new CHR is the newly promoted Lt Gen Themba Michael Nkabinde, up to now General Officer Commanding the Infantry Formation. Nkabinde himself succeeded Mgwebi as infantry chief in June 2003.
Other senior appointments include Maj Gen Gerry Malinga as Deputy Chief of the Air Force, Maj Gen Lourens Smith Deputy Surgeon General and Rear Admiral MS Hlongwane Deputy Chief of the Navy.
Masondo was promoted to major general and Chief Director Force Preparation with effect from December 1, 2007. Previous to that, he was Director Personnel Maintenance (at the Human Resources Support Centre) from March 1, 2006. Prior to that he served as Director Corporate Communication from May 1, 2004 as brigadier general. He served in this post for one month and on June 1, 2005 was appointed as the Personal Staff Officer to the then-Chief of the SANDF, General Siphiwe Nyanda.
The new C Army was born in Umtata in the then-Transkei on December 21, 1957. He left South Africa to join Umkhonto we Sizwe in 1976 where he served in various capacities until his return to South Africa in 1992 and integration into the SANDF in 1994.
He holds a Certificate in Defence Management from Wits University, a Certificate in Labour Relations from Pretoria University and a B Comm degree. He is currently studying towards a B Comm Honours degree. Masondo is married with three children. He is the son of retired General Andrew Masondo.
It is the second time Mgwebi succeeds Matanzima. Mgwebi was promoted lieutenant general and appointed CHR on September 1, 2007, when Matanzima was moved to the J Ops Division.
He worked his way up the ranks from infantry platoon to company and unit commander. In 1991 he was appointed Transkei Defence Force director of Special Forces and, in 1993, Director of Training and Operations. He integrated into the SANDF in 1994. From 1995 to 1997 he held the post of Military Secretary to the Minister of Defense and from 1997-2002 he was General Officer Commanding the SA Army’s Mpumalanga Command. He was appointed founding General Officer Commanding of the South African Army Infantry Formation on April 1, 2000 and subsequently GOC Joint Operations Headquarters. During this time was seconded to the African Union as force commander of the AU peace mission in Burundi. Mgwebi became the first South African to head a UN peacekeeping force when the AU mission “re-capped” on June 1, 2004 to become the UN Operation in Burundi (ONUB).
He holds a diploma in defense management and a degree in business administration from the University of South Africa. Mgwebi was born in 1956. He is married to Busisiwe, with two sons and two daughters. He lists his hobbies as sports, reading and walking.