Army honours to be dumped?
Fears are mounting that South Africa's pre-democracy military history could be wiped out if ulterior motives are allowed to drive the name changes of dozens of army regiments.
The concerns are being voiced as the team driving the proposed name changes of 67 reserve army regiments nears the end of its work.
It is feared that, along with name changes, affected regiments will lose their colours [flags], battle honours and badges, all of which define a regiment.
The name-change project, said SA Army chief Lieutenant-General Vusumuzi Masondo, is due for completion in March. The project, code-named Phoenix, which began in 2003, called for affected regiments to suggest new names for their units last year.
Masondo said the changes were aimed at revitalising the defence force.
"Though this is a sensitive issue . a requirement exists to reflect the new historic balance in unit names and military traditions."
Military analyst Helmoed Heitman was cautious of the name changes.
"The National Party made the same mistake pre-1994. The government is now on the same path," he said.
He said the argument that the names of regiments had to be changed because they were reminiscent of apartheid and South Africa's colonial past was "ridiculous".
"History cannot be rewritten by changing a name. History has to be acknowledged," he said.
Heitman said: "The loss of a regiment's colours would be disastrous. If this happens, units would lose their entire history and everything that defined them."
He said regiments had apparently been advised to choose "less objectionable" names, "which is completely childish".
"There are many members of the affected regiments - black and white - who joined the regiments because of their history and what they stood for in terms of honour and tradition."
Godfrey Giles, chairman of the Council of Military Veterans' Organisations, dismissed Heitman's concerns.
He said the move was not intended to eradicate South Africa's military history.
Giles said the plan was to remove offensive terms associated with the past to ensure the representation of all South Africans.
He said the entire process was a "melting pot" of ideas and no final decisions had been taken.
Giles said those driving the process were looking at numerous solutions, including naming units after politicians, "as has been done in the past".
"The team is looking at possibly renaming regiments after ethnic names, geographical names - such as changing Natal Mounted Rifles to KwaZulu-Natal Mounted Rifles and after famous South African battles," Giles said.
He said, given the country's rich military history, the process was being carefully thought through.
"There are efforts to ensure, wherever possible, the preservation of South Africa's proud military history."
His organisation supported the building of traditions for the new South Africa.