South Africa’s top soldier, General Solly Shoke, this week said thank you to the people of the Northern Cape, particularly those in the provincial capital, for making the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) so welcome during Armed Forces Day and the events around it.
His appreciation comes two weeks after the event concluded and days ahead of the first planning meeting for Armed Forces Day 2019.
To date Armed Forces Day events have been held in six of South Africa’s nine provinces and, as per a stated objective, each province will have a turn to host the South African military’s major public internal event of the year. The cycle of going to each province will then be repeated.
The northern provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga, along with Western Cape, have yet to host the event. A reliable source in the SANDF said no early announcement of the venue was expected as any number of fact-finding missions would have to be made to the three potential venues ahead of a decision being made.
The first Armed Forces Day in democratic South Africa was a parade in the country’s military capital, Thaba Tshwane, part of the Tshwane metro in Gauteng. It was held on December 16 in honour of the formation of Umkhonto we Size, the ANC military wing, but the date was changed to February 21 the following year as a non-political one and to commemorate the sinking of the troopship SS Mendi in the English Channel in 1917, South Africa’s worst naval tragedy.
Armed Forces Day has grown into a week of events ranging from a demonstration of military capability and materiel through to parades and career advice with the all-important address by the president of the Republic of South Africa who is also Commander-in-Chief of the SANDF. A medal parade has also become an integral part of the event.
The event is seen is a showcase for “the people’s defence force” and also allows all four services to jointly exercise logistics capability and capacity.
“There is no other exercise on the South African defence calendar where more than nine thousand men and women in uniform representing the air, land and sea forces as well as military health work together,” an officer close to the event said.
While costs for this year’s event have not been made public, the previous two Armed Forces Days – in Durban and Port Elizabeth – cost just on R50 million according to Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. She was answering a Parliamentary question posed by Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence minister, Kobus Marais.