Nothing is yet cast in stone as regards voluntary name changes for SA Army Reserve Force regiments and units.
The idea of changing names to reflect democratic South Africa’s military and contemporary history was first raised in 2011 by the Army’s name review steering committee.
Reserve Force components of the landward arm of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) were voluntarily requested to suggest appropriate new names for their regiments and units.
“Reaction by units at the time was welcomed but the process did not fully achieve the goal set by the name review steering committee,” SANDF director: corporate communications Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga said.
“For the next phase the committee proposed to SA Army Chief Lieutenant General Vusi Masondo a second round be initiated with all Army Reserve units again instructed to review their names on a voluntary basis. The new names will then be presented to the committee,” he said adding “no date has been set for finalisation of the process”.
When the new names have been finalised and the name review steering committee is satisfied the result “provides a balance reflective of the new dispensation in South Africa, as well as the country’s rich military history, the new set of names will be submitted to the Army Command Council for approval”.
Masondo said earlier this year the overall aim of the name change exercise was to reflect “cohesiveness and regimental pride among all reserves”.
There appears to be at least some support for name changes among Reserve Force members with some wanting to see “new” South African names such as Gauteng and Mpumalanga finding their way into units in these provinces.
Others have called the possible name changes “sad” and “tragic”, saying it smacked of other name changes in the country “do simply for the sake of change”.
“This will not create pride, it will destroy history,” another said referring to the possible disappearance of regiments such as the Witwatersrand Rifles, Cape Town Highlanders and SA Irish.
“Traditional regiments should be left along. It is not necessary to change a regiment that has been in existence for more than 100 years,” a Western Cape Reserve Force member said.
The issue was best summed up by him as being “another one of those where, whatever decisions are finally made, not everybody will be satisfied”.
Indications are units with names that have no geographic or other ties would be the best choices for new names. These include 4 Maintenance Unit, 19 Field Engineer Regiment and 71 Signal Unit as some examples.
Units expected to be first in line for new names could include the SA Irish Regiment, Regiment De La Rey, Regiment Christiaan Beyers, Transvaal Staats Artillerie, Transvaal Horse Artillery, Regiment Oranjerivier, Regiment Westelike Provinsie, Regiment Potchefstroomse Universiteit, Natal Mounted Rifles, Natal Carbineers and Natal Mounted Rifles.