As South Africa gets ready to mark 20 years of democracy the two tier system of decorations and medals used by the SA National Defence Force to honour its airmen, military medics, sailors and soldiers is in the process of being gradually phased out.
At present there are 66 decorations and medals. 52 of these are awarded for acts of bravery, valour and other meritorious deeds that were performed before April 2003. The remaining 14 are presented for these and other acts performed after that date.
The time distinction was brought into being to allow former MK, Apla and other soldiers who became part of the SANDF following integration to be recognised along with former SA Defence Force soldiers in the country’s “new” military.
SANDF Commander-in-Chief, President Jacob Zuma, conferred military honours from the “new” list on soldiers who were part of last year’s Battle for Bangui in the Central African Republic (CAR) during this year’s Armed Forces Day parade at AFB Bloemspruit on February 21.
Twelve soldiers from 5 Special Forces Regiment, the SA Army Infantry Formation, 1 Parachute Battalion, 44 Parachute Regiment and 7 Medical Battalion received either the Silver or Bronze Leopard for performing acts of exceptional and/or conspicuous bravery during military operations.
Recipients were Lieutenant Colonel Solomon Lechoenyo of 5 Special Forces Regiment in the Silver Class; Major Michael Silva (SA Army Infantry Formation); Major Stephen Jiyana (1 Parachute Battalion), Warrant Officer Mphetshanga Rabilwana; Staff Sergeant Alphios Nkosi (both 5 Special Forces Regiment); Sergeant Seroele Mampa; Corporal Mandla Ngobese; Corporal Molatelo Nkoana (all 7 Medical Battalion) and Lance Corporal Shane Smith (44 Parachute Regiment), all in the Bronze Class.
Colonel William Dixon (SA Army Infantry Formation) and Lieutenant Colonel Solomon Lechoenyo (5 Special Forces Regiment) received the Golden Protea for “exceptional leadership or exceptional meritorious service and the utmost devotion to duty” while Colonel Renier Coetzee (Special Forces Brigade Headquarters) was honoured with the Silver Protea.
The Commander-in-Chief also presented a further 12 Silver Protea medals posthumously during the parade.
Recipients were Sergeant Matlole Mahase, Corporal Andrew Mogorosi, Corporal Mokgadi Seakamela, Lance Corporal Sello Molora, Lance Corporal Lukas Tsheke and riflemen Xolani Dlamini, Lesego Lebatlang, Karabo Matsheka, Khomotso Msenga, Vusimusi Ngaleka, Matelsane Thulo and Thabiso Phirimana. They were all 1 Parachute Battalion members.
According to the SANDF Ceremonial Section the Leopard medal can be presented in the Gold, Silver and Bronze classes, the same as the Protea medal.
The other “new” medals and decorations are Tshumelo Ikatelaho (General Service), the Medal for Loyal Service, the Emblem for Reserve Force Service, Mention in Despatches, Long Service Awards for Civilians, the Public Service Certificate, the Badge for Voluntary Reserve Force Service and the Chief of the SANDF’s Commendation.
Colonel Tommie Pretorius of the Ceremonial Section said plans were underway to add a medal for sacrifice to this list.
At the top of the list of military honours for acts of bravery, meritorious service, loyalty and others is the Castle of Good Hope award for “significant acts of valour or conspicuous bravery or during a pre-eminent act of self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of an enemy”. A bar may be awarded for a successive similar achievement.
Next highest award is the Honoris Crux Silver for exceptional deeds of bravery against an armed enemy. This is followed by the Gold Star for Bravery, the Star for Bravery, Honoris Crux and then the Bravery Star in Silver, Star for Bravery in Silver and the Pro Virtue decoration.
Then follow 19 medals and decorations for distinguished conduct, meritorious service and devotion to duty.
They are the Star for Conspicuous Leadership, the Conspicuous Leadership Star, the Southern Cross decoration, Pro Merito decoration, Decoration for Merit in Gold, Pro Virtue medal, Ad Astra decoration, the Army Cross, the Southern Cross, Merit Medal in Silver, Silver Medal for Merit, Merit Medal in Bronze, Bronze medal for Merit, Pro Patria Medal, Cunene Clasp, Southern Africa medal, General Service medal, Maluti Clasp and the Operational medal for Southern Africa, the first of the SANDF’s campaign medals.
The apparent duplication of some medals is due to the fact they were allotted to former MK and Apla members while former SADF and TBVC (Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda, and Ciskei) members qualify for others on the list.