Potchefstroom in the North West province will host Armed Forces Day 2015 on Saturday, February 21.
In 2012 South African National Defence Force (SANDF) Commander-in-Chief President Jacob Zuma proclaimed the day of the sinking of the SS Mendi during World War One as Armed Forces Day in South Africa.
On February 21, 1917, South Africa suffered its worst maritime tragedy when the SS Mendi was struck by the SS Darro off the Isle of Wight. More than 600 members of the SA Native Labour Corps, nine officers and all 33 crew died when the ship sank.
The first Armed Forces Day parade was held in Atteridgeville, west of Pretoria, in 2013 and, in line with SANDF thinking, the next year saw it move to another province – Free State. The 2014 event took place at AFB Bloemspruit in the provincial capital of Bloemfontein.
This year’s event goes to North West, which arguably has the province’s largest military population and is also set to be home to the first rural development initiative to be undertaken by the SA Army.
As with last year’s event the Commander-in-Chief will again be the main functionary and the podium review officer for a parade that will include detachments from all four arms of service. Ahead of the parade, the venue of which had at the time of publication not been announced, the streets of Potchefstroom will bear the weight of about 70 military vehicles in a show of strength. The column will comprise Olifant combat tanks, Rooikat armoured cars, G6 self-propelled guns, Ratel infantry fighting vehicles and other specialist military vehicles.
The event, according to a SANDF statement issued by its Director: Corporate Communication is “expected to start at 10h00”. Zuma will have Defence and Military Veterans Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, and her deputy, Kebby Maphatsoe, on the podium alongside him. Indications are other security cluster ministers will also be present.
Presentation of medals, mechanised columns, a career exhibition and a capability demonstration are listed as the major components of Armed Forces Day 2015.
The day will also see the SA Air Force show its 95th anniversary logo in North West for the first time. The logo made its air force debut at the SAAF prestige awards evening prior to last Friday’s Air Force Day parade at AFB Waterkloof.
The SANDF said that Armed Forces Day has five major objectives. These are to unite all South Africans behind the country’s defence force; to allow the defence force to interact with communities; to raise public awareness of the military and its purpose; to showcase SANDF capabilities in terms of equipment and technology and to celebrate the defence force’s achievements in both internal and external missions.