By Trevor Cohen
General Solly Shoke was handed the reins in 2011 by the last president of South Africa of the Republic of South Africa making him the longest-serving Chief of the SANDF. Chief of the South African Defence force’s does not take their responsibilities lightly and try to keep the men and woman of the SA defence forces on an even keel. They tend to be in power for an average of five to ten years and it is not every day that they change.
The Chief reports to the minister of the Defence force and they in turn report to the Cabinet and President. The four arms of the Defence force report to the Chief those being Army, Navy, Airforce and Military Health Services.
General Shoke has had to juggle a massive decline in defence spending by the SA cabinet and with an increase in work carried out by the defence forces. These expanded operations are humanitarian flood relief work in neighbouring countries, support of the SA police force in enforcing Covid restrictions, the ongoing UN mission in Goma, MUNUSCO, among many operations and standard day to day operations to maintain the security of the country.
The incoming Chief General Rudzani Maphwanya who has been appointed by the current President of SA, Cyril Ramaphosa comes with experience in the Special forces side of the Army and joint operations, among many other roles he has played in the SANDF and previous roles in the armed wing of the ANC. He is degreed in business and has a couple of postgraduate degrees.
The Colour Company and each of the respective branches of the SANDF marched on accompanied by the Army marching band. Once the podium party reached the podium the South African Airforce performed a general salute flypast in two Oryx helicopters. The flypast was accompanied by a gun salute by the SA Army. The reading of the SANDF Code of Conduct was recited by Chief Petty Officer Nduli from the SA Navy.
This was followed by a free fall display by the combined national parachute team, exiting a Casa 212 from 44 Squadron at 6000ft AGL. The team is made up of several divisions of the military including Special Forces, SA Army and the SAAF. The landing party then presented the outgoing Chief with a commemorative Scroll.
The SANDF head Chaplin opened proceedings with a customary scripture reading and prayer followed by the reading of the impressive Curriculum Vitae off General Solly Shoke. General Shoke then inspected the parade followed a salute march past to the outgoing chief.
The outgoing Chief then delivered his keynote address in which he emphasised the need for security in South Africa and the challenges to that security posed by the declining military budget. The General vowed to continue lobbying a larger budget and for better working conditions for all soldiers.
A mass flypast by the South African Airforce then commenced, the first wave was made up of the rotor wing component of the SAAF, led by an Agusta A109 followed by four Oryx Helicopters and a BK117. The next wave comprised of a Douglas TP47 Dakota from 35 Maritime Squadron and a Casa 212 from 44 Squadron. They were closely followed by 41 Squadrons “Pointer” formation of four Cessna Caravans. The sky was then filled with nine PC7 Astras from Central Flying School Langebaanweg. The mighty 28 Squadron were the next to pass in two Hercules C130BZ’s and finally the fast jet formation constituting two SAAB Gripens and three BAE Hawk Mk120’s. One of the Gripens broke off to perform an impressive solo display.
The outgoing chief handed the ceremonial sword to the incoming Chief, an act symbolising the handing over of responsibility of the SANDF. The incoming Chief General Rudzani Maphwanya was then duly sworn in with the President of SA overlooking the ceremony. The Judge President of Gauteng leads the swearing-in process.
The Army then gave a simulated war experience with the firing in salute of the 5, 88 inch towed guns and then they blew 10 fuel-air explosions 5 on each side of the field. Chief Rudzani Maphwanya will officially take over the control of the SANDF on 1st June 2021.