The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is getting ready for an exciting celebration of the armed forces next week with the launch of a fan park in Kimberley. This saw a capability demonstration put on for residents and guests.
The SANDF on 15 February hosted the capability demonstration at AR Abass stadium in Kimberley, ahead of Armed Forces Day celebrations on 21 February. The stadium is also host to a fan park where career opportunities in the SANDF are outlined – thousands of youngsters lined up at the different booths erected by the SANDF. The parade on the 21st will be broadcast for people in the fan park.
The opening of the fan park was attended by Premier of the Northern Cape, Sylvia Lucas, and SANDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Vusi Masondo, who witnessed demonstrations including military police demonstrating how to protect dignitaries during an attack, soldiers parachuting into the stadium, precision drills and aircraft displays. Arena activities will take place every afternoon in the stadium through to 21 February.
In explaining the rational for Armed Forces Day, Masondo said “we must understand that with the background we have as a country, most of our African people are not [familiar] with the business of defence, and therefore for us to be appreciated as a national asset, it was critical that we begin to get closer to our people.”
“There should be an appreciation that if the Defence Force is not at war, it is actually training and preparing for war because it must always be combat ready to face war at any time. By having these armed force celebrations, we are trying to get closer to our people. We are trying to get them to know what we are doing and therefore to support our efforts.”
Also in anticipation of Armed Forces Day is musical events hosted by the SANDF. A number of musical concerts and community outreach programmes were carried out in various schools on 12 February. One of the bands that conducted these musical concerts was National Ceremonial Guard (NCG), whose visit was at Pescodia Secondary School at Roodepan in Kimberley.
Sport development clinics are also underway and focus on sports such as swimming, soccer, cricket, martial arts, rugby and volleyball.
The SANDF said that a total of 6 524 SANDF personnel – 3 000 from the Army alone – will participate in Armed Forces Day celebrations, along with 41 aircraft, 222 specialised vehicles, 374 operational vehicles, 66 busses and 60 motorcycles.
Armed Forces Day is held on 21 February (chosen after the sinking of the SS Mendi on that day in 1917) and this will start off with a wreath-laying ceremony officiated by the president. It will be followed by a parade through the streets of Kimberley involving bands, a flag company, gun carriage, marching columns, mechanised column with hundreds of vehicles and a flypast of South African Air Force (SAAF) and SAAF Museum aircraft.
Apart from the main event on 21 February, there will be activities throughout the week, including a capability demonstration at the De Brug training facility outside Bloemfontein. The public are invited to this on 18 February, with 5 000 people expected, while the demonstration on 20 February will be for invited guests only. It will include a static firepower exhibition and mechanised attack with air support.
After Armed Forces week, the public can look forward to seeing the SANDF at the Rand Show over Easter (30 March to 8 April) and at the Bloem Show in April/May.