After 40 years in uniform, SA Navy Master-At-Arms, Senior Chief Warrant Officer Pragasen Moodley retired, handing over the highest position a Non-Commissioned Officer can occupy in the service to Senior Chief Warrant Officer Matee Joseph Molefe.
At a Change of Command parade on Thursday at Naval Base Simon’s Town, SCWO Molefe becomes the first African incumbent to hold the position of Master-At-Arms (MAA) for the SA Navy (SAN).
In his address to the parade, Rear Admiral Guy Jamieson, Navy Deputy Chief, noted “NCOs are the backbone of the military and are responsible for training, leading and taking care of ratings”.
“They are responsible for ensuring their troops are prepared to function as an effective military unit,” he said.
The Master-At-Arms is responsible for, among many tasks, the overall monitoring and improvement of disciplinary standards, morale, personnel well-being and ensuring high standards of military professionalism.
The Master-At-Arms sits on the Navy Command Council, the highest decision making body in the Navy. Jamieson explained he (or she) is not just a passive member, “but is expected to actively participate in that Council and contribute to the strategic direction of the Navy.”
“Above all,” Jamieson continued, “he or she represents the inputs of the most precious assets of any fighting organisation, its people.”
Moodley, who joined the SA Navy in January 1978, said Thursday’s parade may mean an end to his career, but it was a “significant new beginning” for Molefe.
“He now carries the weight of effective representation of other ranks in fulfilling his mandate as the principle advisor to the Chief of the SA Navy on issues of morale, welfare, job satisfaction, discipline and ceremonial in representing the other ranks,” Moodley said.
Moodley served in various posts prior to being MAA, starting his career as a member of the South African Marines. He served as a coxswain, Boat Master and Instructor and participated in a number of international maritime exercises, at home and overseas. He attended the United States Senior Enlisted Course at Rhode Island, Newport in 1996 and participated in the Global Maritime Senior Enlisted Symposium, hosted by the US Navy and Coast Guard in Hawaii, where he was elected to lead the delegates from the rest of Africa by his African shipmates. He is the first MAA to serve periods of appointments as a MAA of a unit (SAS Wingfield), a naval base (Simon’s Town), Fleet and MAA of the SA Navy.
Looking back, Moodley said he served with professional and dedicated officers. Reflecting on 40 years in uniform, the one thing that sticks in Moodley’s mind is the honour and privilege of being a bearer of the coffin of democratic South Africa’s first President and also first Commander-in-Chief of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), Nelson Mandela.
Molefe, a member of the ANC military wing Umkhonto We Sizwe, was integrated into the SANDF in 1994. His experience includes serving as a radar operator on strikecraft and being aboard Operations Room Manager for SAS Mendi in 2003, deploying to Germany as part of the delivery crew; Coxswain aboard SAS Isandlwana in 2009, MAA at SAS Simonsberg in 2014 and Fleet MAA in 2016.
Molefe said the new position is a meaningful one for him. “I worked hard to get here, I displayed myself as a professional, disciplined sailor and motivated.”
As to what he expects from his NCO colleagues and other ranks, he said: “I’m looking for their full support in order for me to execute my duties properly.”