Lieutenant General Lindile Yam on Friday ceremonially took over as the new Chief of the South African Army from Lieutenant General Vusi Masondo during a Change of Command parade at the SA Army College in Pretoria.
Masondo, with effect from 1 February, is Chief of Corporate Staff after being at the helm of the SA Army for more than four years after being appointed on 1 October 2011 and charged with the responsibility to command the largest military component of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).
Masondo was appointed Army Chief following a stint as force preparation chief for the Army. Prior to that he had been, among others, personal staff officer (PSO) to former South African National Defence Force (SANDF) Chief, General Siphiwe Nyanda; Director: Human Resource Maintenance and Senior Staff Officer: Personnel.
Masondo, looking back on his career as Chief of the Army, said that the Army has been involved in many peace support operations, but the highlight was being part of the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which successfully dealt with M23 rebels. He said this came shortly after the Battle of Bangui in the Central African Republic and the M23 rebels had threatened that they would perform a repeat of that battle.
With regard to future peacekeeping missions, Masondo said that Commander in Chief of the SANDF, President Jacob Zuma, may require the SANDF to send observers to Burundi.
Yam said he was already busy implementing Masondo’s short term plan for the Army and that one of his main priorities was making sure its prime mission equipment is in good condition and available to meet taskings, and that wherever the Army is deployed it does its job well.
With regard to the 2014 Defence Review, Yam said it was difficult to arrest the decline when Treasury has reduced the defence budget, but the Army is working on milestone one of the Defence Review within the budget it has been allocated.
In his Change of Command speech, Masondo said he had dedicated the last four years to making sure that the Army had never fallen short of its mandate to the people of South Africa, and had never had a situation where the Army fell short of its mandate.
“During my tenure, we managed to bolster our military equipment inventory with new prime mission equipment to enable our army and to arrest equipment decline; an undertaking that I believe Lt Gen Yam will continue to champion, emboldened by the now in effect Defence Review Report. We are indeed in good hands and with everyone putting their shoulders to the wheel, progress is inevitable,” Masondo said.
“We have come a very long and challenging way and, have recently celebrated the operational readiness of our force contribution to the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC) force in September last year. That milestone meant that the SA Army now has combat-ready forces equipped with suitable hardware waiting to be rapidly deployed by the Chief of the SANDF and by extension Chief Joint Operations anywhere on the African continent to repress instability and prevent the loss of life that has characterized most conflicts on the continent.
“To Lt Gen Yam…I have no reason to question nor fault your ability to lead this pride of lions. As the outgoing Chief of the Army, I am glad to note that this organization is in good hands. There is no doubt in my mind that you are adequately empowered after having distinguished yourself over the years as a reliable patriot in all of the positions in which you were deployed.”
Yam was the General Officer Commanding SA Army Infantry Formation from 1 November 2011. He joined Umkhonto weSizwe in 1981 where he receive training in Angola and gained experienced as a combat action platoon commander in the Eastern Front.
In 1982, he was appointed as platoon commander and drill instructor. In 1984, he was wounded in action and spent time recuperating in Yugoslavia. During 1987, he completed the urban and rural warfare training and company commanders’ course in East Germany.
On his return to Angola, he served as a company and base battalion commander in Caculama, a company commander in the Northern Front, an instructor in tactics (battle handling) at the MK Training Centre Richard Barney Molokoane in Culcalama as well as a company commander and a battalion commander.
He opened a base in Tanzania from where he was sent to infiltrate South Africa and where he later became the Regional Commander of the Border Region.
In 1993/1994, Yam completed the Junior Command and Staff Course in Ghana and, in 1994 he was integrated into the SANDF with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He was the first member of the Non-statutory Forces to become an officer commanding when he was appointed as the Officer Commanding of 13 SA Infantry Battalion in November 1994. In 1997, he was appointed as the Staff Officer Grade 1 Operations in Group 8, East London. In 1998, he completed the Senior Command and Staff Course and in 2000, the Executive National Security Programme (ENSP). He also completed a course in Defence Management at the University of the Witwatersrand.
In 2000, he was appointed as the Officer Commanding Group 6 in Port Elizabeth with 22 military units under his command.
In November 2001, he was appointed as the Director Physical Training, Sport and Recreation (D PTSR) and as the South Africa representative of the International Military Sports Council, serving with representatives of 130 countries. He was then appointed as the Chief of the Eastern and Southern African Liaison Office and as an additional member of the CISM Board of Directors as part of the International Strategy and Planning Committee. He was also co-opted as South Africa’s Mega Games Security Committee member before he was sent to the United Kingdom (UK) Royal College of Defence Studies in 1995 for the Global Security Course. He remained in the UK to become the Defence, Army and Naval Advisor for South Africa to the UK and Sweden (no-resident) from 2006 to 2009. He has a Damelin College Diploma in Personnel and Training Management as well as an MA Degree (Kings College) from the University of London.
Lieutenant General Yam returned to South Africa and was appointed as the Commandant of the Military Academy in Saldanha. On 1 November 2011, he was appointed as the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the SA Army Infantry Formation and promoted to the rank of Major General.