President Jacob Zuma will be the main functionary at this year’s Armed Forces Day parade in Potchefstroom where he will continue a duty started at Air Force Base Waterkloof in December by handing out further Mandela medals.
He will again present specially designed and minted medals to a further 34 SA National Defence Force (SANDF) members involved in the care of and funeral arrangements for Nelson Mandela.
During the AFB Waterkloof parade Zuma, SANDF Commander-in-Chief, presented 84 Mandela medals to 74 serving and 10 retired SANDF members, the majority of them in the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS).
A statement on Armed Forces Day issued this week by SANDF Corporate Communications indicates the President will “bestow medals to men and women in uniform who have served the nation by protecting and defending the sovereignty of the Republic”.
Prior to the medal presentation Zuma and the senior command of the SANDF, led by its Chief, General Solly Shoke, will take the salute from a convoy of about 70 military vehicles as well as witness an SA Air Force (SAAF) flypast. This part of Armed Forces Day will be held in front of the Tlokwe Municipal offices. The Transvaal Horse Artillery will fire a 21 gun salute during the parade.
Once the parade is completed, a convoy of specialised military vehicles and equipment, such as Olifant tanks, Rooikat armoured vehicles, G6 self propelled guns, Ratel infantry combat vehicles and many other specialist vehicles will move through the town on a planned route before entering surrounding townships to interact with local residents.
This is the third Armed Forces Day to be presented by the SANDF as part of its taking defence to the people initiative. The February 21 date commemorates the sinking of the SS Mendi in the English Channel in 1917, South Africa’s worst maritime disaster.
Previous Armed Forces Day parades have been held in Atteridgeville, site of one of South Africa’s SS Mendi memorials, and at AFB Bloemspruit.