SANDF Armed forces day 2020 celebrations will be taking place in the Limpopo City of Polokwane from 14-21 February 2020. The media were given a peek into the planning for this major deployment of SANDF troops and assets when we were invited to the official media launch held at Peter Mokaba Stadium on Wednesday 29 January.
The media conference was opened by Army Major Letsholo who introduced BrigGen René Mercuur who did the honours as programme director for the event. After a brief opening in prayer by a SANDF Chaplain it was time for BrigGen H.J Strobel to outline the reason for Armed Forces Day and what could be expected during the week of festivities.
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. The Commander in Chief, President Cyril Ramaphosa, will be the main functionary as is customary.
The operational machine for Armed Forces Day is already well underway and has been divided into four main stages
The planning stage was kicked off on 11 March just a short time after the conclusion of 2019 Armed Forces Day which was held in Cape Town. The planning stage was concluded on 20 January.
The Mobilisation and Movement of forces from all over South Africa, this stage of the operation is already well underway since the 20 January and is expected to be concluded on 12 February when all the participating forces should be stationed in Polokwane.
The Execution Phase will commence on 14 February and continue for the duration of the festivities which will conclude on 21 February ( we will go into detail of what to expect over this period later in this article)
Demobilisation phase will see all the forces preparing for and finally travelling back to their respective home bases.
BrigGen de Goede, the acting chief of the SA Army 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. He explained that moving troops and equipment from all over the country to Polokwane would serve as a wonderful exercise to gauge the capability of our armed forces. The planned live-fire exercise to be held at the SAAF Bombing Range at Roodewal will also serve to gauge the readiness of all the forces.
After the floor was opened for questions BrigGen de Goede invited everyone outside to witness the firing of an artillery gun and a flypast by a 2 Squadron Gripen, the day was closed off with two soccer matches played between SANDF teams and local professional sides.
The events planned for the celebrations will serve to inform and educate the public as to what the SANDF does on a daily basis to fulfil its mandate protect South Africa against external or internal threats to our national security.
A Fan Park will be set up and they will give the public the opportunity to interact with SANDF members as well as get a glimpse of some of the military hardware that will be on show. The Fan Parks will be set up as from 14 February at the Polokwane Cricket Club it will be open to the public until 19 February. A fun run/walk is planned for Saturday 15 February at the Old Peter Mokaba Stadium.
An Interfaith service is planned for 16 February at the Ngwako Ramatlhodi Sports Complex in Seshego North West of Polokwane City.
A Gala Evening will be held at the Ngwako Ramatlhodi Sports Complex on 16 February and will unfortunately be for invited guests only.
Armed Forces Capability Demonstration
The Capability Demonstration will take place over two days ( 17 and 18 February) the 17th will be a rehearsal for the main event on the 18th. The public are invited to join on the rehearsal day to experience the power of the SANDF at work. The Demonstration will be very air power heavy as it is being held at the SAAF Bombing range North of Polokwane. The demonstration on the 18th will be for invited guests only.The SA army Artillery will be slightly limited be the size of the Roodewal Range but nevertheless they promise a memorable display.
SANDF Legacy Project
A Legacy project is planned for 17 February at the Sekuputu Old Age Home South of Polokwane
SANDF Golf Day
A Golf day is planned for 20 February at the Polokwane Golf Club, President Ramaphosa is expected to host this event.
Armed Forces day Parade and Mechanised Display
The culmination of the week’s activities leads to the parade which will be held in the CBD of Polokwane the route is not yet finalised as consultations with the local police and other stake holders have not yet been concluded. President Ramaphosa will be in attendance and will address the Military members as well as the public.
Wreath Laying Ceremony
President Ramaphosa will be laying a wreath at a memorial site in the centre of Polokwane on 20 February, the site is undergoing a facelift so it will be presentable for the ceremony
VVIP and VIP functions are planned for 20 February as well as Troop Feast and a Music Event, the Music Event will be taking place at the New Peter Mokaba Stadium.
Armed Forces Day Celebrations in Polokwane should result in a desperately need financial boost for Polokwane and the surrounding area.
We wish all the participating members a safe journey to and from AFD 2020