The South African Navy (SAN) has named its newly refurbished Flag Officer Commanding Headquarters building in the East Dockyard of Naval Base Simon’s Town after a retired Chief of the Navy.
At a naming ceremony held on the evening of Thursday 19 September and officiated by current Chief of the Navy Vice-Admiral Mosiwa Hlongwane, Building 1032 was named the “Vice Admiral (Ret) Refiloe J Mudimu Building.”
Mudimu served as Chief of the Navy from 2005 to 2014. Also in attendance was Vice Admiral Robert Simpson-Anderson, who served as the Naval Chief from 1992 to 2000.
The building renaming features as part of the SA Navy celebrating 25 Years of Democracy, during which it reflects on the achievements and challenges the organisation has had over this period, through a campaign termed Project Tshintsha.
Speaking to defenceWeb after the opening ceremony, a proud Mudimu noted that it was “a great honour to be recognized in the manner that the South African Navy has done.”
“I least expected it,” he said. “My future and my life in the South Africa Navy was closely intertwined in seeing a diverse team in the South African Navy consisting of all the people of South Africa, black and white. We can, as people, make sure that we assist one another in such a manner that every individual in the South African Navy, and in the Defence Force, is able to reach the potential levels of the highest order. And we must do this without hindering, without impeding or denying anybody an opportunity to be great.”
Reflecting on his time as Chief of the SA Navy, Mudimu thanked his predecessors, Vice Admirals Robert Simpson-Anderson (1992–2000) and Johan Retief (2000–2005) “for having laid a firm foundation for me to be able to do the things that I thought that the people of South Africa deserved, creating a Navy that is capable to go to sea, as our vision says: To fight at sea and to win at sea.”
“We were honoured to lead and if we use that opportunity to lead in the manner that we are able to live in visible footprints in the hearts and minds of others is greatly appreciated. I’m really astounded by the fact that, whilst one is still alive, you can see that you were appreciated. I might not have known about it when I was Chief of the Navy, but today I can see a clear testimonial of the love, the care, the tenacity and all the good things that the people have done.
“So, to say that I had meaning to so many people, I’m really touched. [I want] to say thank you, thank you, thank you a million times South African Navy.”
The four-storey building, known as Building 1032 was constructed in 1974 to serve as the Headquarters building of SAS Chapman, the Mine Countermeasure Flotilla. By the early 1980s, the building was repainted in a light mint green colour, which earned it the nickname of “the Peppermint Palace.” In the mid-1980s, the 2nd Strike Craft Squadron was formed and added to SAS Chapman. With the closing of the Flotillas and their specialised workshops in 1999 (to be incorporated into the new Fleet Command support organisation), the Fleet Maintenance Unit (FMU) was established, using the facilities of the decommissioned SAS Chapman. The building was painted in a much darker ‘brick’ hue to provide a new identity to the FMU.
In 2000, the FMU Headquarters moved to the Armscor Dockyard Electronic Complex, with the building then utilised by the Armscor Dockyard as workshops. By 2014 the building was declared uninhabitable due to the degradation of the structure and subsequently a project was launched by Naval Base Facilities to refurbish and redesign the building in the new Naval Base Simon’s Town Headquarters. The newly renovated Headquarters was opened in 2018.