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SANDF Armed Forces Day – What to Expect

Armed Forces Day commemorates the sinking of the SS Mendi in the English Channel on February 21 1917, it resulted in the deaths of 600 soldiers from the South African Native Labour Corps, as well as commemorating all South African soldiers that paid the “ultimate price” to defend freedom‚ peace and justice. Over the years Armed Forces day has been extended to a week of activities hosted by one of the four branches of the SANDF, manly the SA Airforce, SA Navy, SA Army and the Military Medical Health Services.

In 2019 the SA Navy will be the hosts of all the activities connected to Armed Forces Day, Cape Town was chosen as the host city. On Monday 28 January members of the media were invited to attend a media launch held aboard the SAS Amatola, a South African Navy Valour-class frigate. Rear Admiral (JG) J.S. Matshimane hosted the event to afford the media the opportunity to understand what was planned for this prestigious event.

Rear Admiral Guy Jamieson explained that exercises of this nature are of vital importance to our military forces, even when we are at peace and budget cuts have become a serious limitation to all branches of the SANDF. Radm Jamieson explained that moving troops and equipment from all over the country to Cape Town is a wonderful exercise to gauge the capability of our armed forces. The planned live fire exercise will also serve to gauge the readiness of all the forces.

Hosting an event of this nature takes months of rigorous planning and many role players, not only the four services of the SANDF are involved and as a result a large committee was assembled to oversee the planning of all the various events that will take place. The joint planning committee is made up of members from the Premiers Office, South African Police Service, provincial Department of Basic Education, Transnet National Port Authority, V&A Waterfront event Management, City of Cape Town as well as representatives of all branches of the SANDF.

Armed Forces Day 2019 will be orchestrated in four stages:

Stage one (Planning) is coming to an end on the 31 January

Stage Two (Mobilisation) will commence on 1 February, in this stage all the Troops and Hardware will be relocated from their home bases to Cape Town, one massive operation considering that over 8500 troops will be taking part in the various exercises.

Stage Three (Execution) this will commence on 15 February and will be the visible events planned for the week leading up to the main event on 21 February.

Stage Four (Demobilisation) this stage will see all the troops and hardware returned to their respective bases.

Events will take place over six days (15 Feb to 22 Feb) and have been placed all over Cape Town to offer the public the best opportunity to see the proceedings.

A Fan Park will be staged at the Mandela Park Stadium in Khayelitsha, a similar set to what SANDF normally have at shows like the Rand Easter Show. The Purpose of the Fan Park is to interact with the community of the host city and the surrounding arrears and also to create awareness regarding career opportunities in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). The Fan Park will be opened at 9:00 on 16 February and will remain open until 19 February.

A night shoot will be held on 19 Feb from 19:30 at Sunrise Beach Muzenburg where SANDF from the Navy, Army and Airforce will be showcased, a rehearsal is planned for 18 February also at 19:30.

The live fire exercise promises to be very entertaining but dose pose a few problems. Muzenburg is no more than six nautical miles from the final flightpath for runway 01 at Cape Town International Airport and as yet ATC’s at Cape Town have not been informed of the Night Shoot exercise. There are between 30 and 40 movements between 19:00 and 21:00 on average the night shoot may be delayed or interrupted. The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for firing exercises at the Naval Range state that

  • No Firing is allowed until aircraft are well clear of the area or about to enter the area

  • Sector controller must be in Radar room and be in contact with both the tower and the weaponry

  • The military understand firing waits for Aircraft Movements and there can be long delays

  • Firing has to be able to be stopped immediately if ATNS says so

We sincerely hope these items will be addressed so that there is no disruption to commercial air traffic and more importantly no safety issues are created.

Main event on 21 February will be start with a Wreath Laying Ceremony 09h00, this will take place at the SS Mendi Memorial Site, UCT Lower Campus the area where the soldiers of the SS Mendi spent their last night before boarding.

This will be followed by the main parade through the streets of Table View and Blouberg , the day will be closed off with a mass Airforce, Army and Navy Capability Demonstration at Table view Beach.

All in all this promises to be a very entertaing few days in the mother city, so if a resident or just feel like experiencing Aircraft, ships and armour of the SANDF in action it is most definitly the place to be.