Reserve Force unit name changes approved but not yet public
All that is needed to move a project that started more than four years ago into the next phase is a ministerial signature. In May 2013 then SA Army Chief, Lieutenant General Vusi Masondo, announced name changes for the Reserve Force units in the landward force. This, he said six months later, was not to be in any way interpreted as sinister but was an effort to make the names of Reserve Force units more representative of the country as well as build regimental and unit pride. This week Brigadier General Gerhard Kamffer, Director: Army Reserves confirmed the project had now reached the stage where new names have been put forward for 40 of the 66 Army Reserve Force units. “I cannot give you the actual names because the final documentation is awaiting the signature of the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans (Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula),” he said during the CArmy media briefing at the SA Army College in Thaba Tshwane. He confirmed the number of units as being 40 that will have new, more South African names in the not-too-distant future adding the colonial names of some units/regiments would be replaced by “more African and South African names”.
This is in line with the demographic make-up of the Reserve Force which is predominantly black with whites coming a distant second followed by Coloureds and Indians in the ranks. Apart from saying “indigenous chiefs” featured in the new names, Kamffer would not be drawn any further on which units would find themselves under what new names. He did point out the renaming process was widespread and well received by the units and soldiers serving in them. Among criteria for the name change suggestions are that units cannot be named after living people. When the name of a deceased person is nominated he or she must have played a significant role in South Africa’s military history. Names such as that of Doman, a Khoi-Khoi leader; Gonnema, leader of the Cochogue in the second Khoi-Khoi conflict in 1673; Xhosa chief Ngqika; Field Marshall Jan Smuts; Major General Dan Pienaar; Oliver Tambo; Walter Sisulu and Chris Hani were put forward as suggestions. The name changes will not affect battle honours and regimental traditions but there will be changes in heraldic terms, SA Army Chief Lieutenant General Lindile Yam said. He also said it would not happen “instantly”. “Issues such as these take time and will not happen overnight.” Kamffer indicated the new names would hopefully still be announced this year but “it all depends on when the Minister signs”.