The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is well on the way to being fully prepared for this year’s Armed Forces Day, due to be held on 21 February in Durban.
Armed Forces Day was initiated in 2012 to commemorate the sinking of the SS Mendi on 21 February 1917 in the English Channel. The troopship that was rammed by the SS Darro off St Catherine’s Point on the Isle of Wight with the loss of 628 members of the then SA Native Labour Corps remains South Africa’s worst naval tragedy.
Armed Forces Day was due to kick off with a media launch on 8 February at the Natural Science Museum in Durban but this was abruptly cancelled. Department of Defence (DoD) head of communications Siphiwe Dlamini told assembled journalists on Wednesday morning that the briefing could not go ahead because the minister of defence was having a briefing in Cape Town and there could not be parallel briefings.
The SANDF in a statement said the programme for this year’s Armed Forces Day will see a convoy of military vehicles from all four branches of service arriving in Durban on 14 February, when they will head through the city centre to the vehicle park near Moses Mabhida stadium. On 16 February a fan park will be opened at Durban Old Drive Inn, which will allow the public to witness SANDF military equipment, military music, precision drill sessions, bridge-laying demonstrations, and interact with recruitment teams.
On 17 February an Armed Forces Golf Day will be held at the Durban Country Club next to Moses Mabhida Stadium, and will be attended by the Chief of the SANDF and various guests.
A live military combat capability demonstration will be held on 18 February at The New Beach and will be open to the public. The demonstration will start at 10:00 and last for an hour. That same day, there will be a gala music concert at Durban City Hall which will feature military musicians and showcase musical career opportunities in the SANDF. This event starts at 18:30.
On 19 February a fun walk/run will start at 6:00 and will start at Blue Lagoon and end at Ushaka Marine. It will be open to the public. The following day the SANDF will rehearse the parade scheduled for 21 February. On the night of the 20th, a night shoot will be held at Blue Lagoon starting at 19:00 and lasting around 45 minutes. It will be open to the public.
The highlight of the armed forces ceremony will be 21 February when President and Commander-In-Chief Jacob Zuma officiates over the Armed Forces Day parade, which will start at 10:00 in the morning near Moses Mabhida Stadium. After the parade, a capability demonstration will be held at Blue Lagoon. This will be open to the public but also visible at the fan park. “The capability demonstration will showcase the SANDF’s military prowess with all the various assets of our military flexing their muscles,” the SANDF said in a statement. According to Durban’s Daily News, the SANDF will stage a hostage rescue as part of the capability demonstration.
The public will be able to receive medical examinations at a South African Medical Health Services village. An estimated 5 000 SANDF personnel will be in Durban for Armed Forces Day, with many camping at the Simunye temporary base until 24 February, according to Daily News.
The SA Navy plans to have its supply and replenishment vessel, SAS Drakensberg; the hydrographic vessel, SAS Protea; a Valour Class frigate; a Heroine Class submarine; a Warrior Class offshore patrol vessel and a River Class mine counter-measures vessel in the port city for the duration of the week around Armed Forces Day. Ships will be berthed in Durban harbour and will be open to the public. A wide variety of aircraft, including Gripen fighter jets, are expected to take part as well, along with hundreds of assorted military vehicles.
The activities on 21 February will include celebrations in the English Channel to mark the sinking of the SS Mendi troopship 100 years ago. The frigate SAS Amatola will lead the commemoration in the English Channel.
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