Budget constraints won’t stop SANDF from showing off in Cape Town
A full-scale military "invasion" of Cape Town will go ahead as planned next month despite stringent defence force budget cuts, the South African National Defence Force announced on Tuesday.
About 8,500 military personnel will be deployed to the Mother City in mid-February for a week-long military showcase, culminating in Armed Forces Day on February 21.
It is the first time the annual event is being held in Cape Town, and will feature a “night shoot” on Muizenberg beach and a large parade through Bloubergstrand. A total of 160 armoured vehicles will also be in attendance, should they succeed in penetrating Cape Town’s notorious traffic gridlock.
This year’s armed forces demonstration takes place amid low staff morale as a result of ongoing defence spending cuts, but senior SANDF officials insist the event is important both from a training and public relations point of view.
“It forces us to test our own abilities to deploy and move forces around the country,” said Rear-Admiral Guy Jamieson, deputy chief of the South African Navy.
“It is still a worthwhile exercise – it makes us better and improves our capability,” Jamieson said.
He said the event was also a valuable chance for military personnel to interact with the public, including at a large fan park in Khayelitsha where visitors can view military equipment ranging from machine guns to helicopters.
Other attractions include public access to ships and a submarine, as well as a gala concert featuring the combined military bands.
Another highlight will be a 1,200-member march-past parade in Blouberg presided over by commander-in-chief President Cyril Ramaphosa. A Gugulethu high school will also form part of a SANDF legacy project.
Armed Forces Day will also commemorate the 101st anniversary of the sinking of the British passenger steamship SS Mendi after a collision with another ship in the English Channel. 646 people drowned, most of them South African soldiers. To mark the occasion Ramaphosa will lay a wreath at a SS Mendi memorial site at the University of Cape Town.
The six-day Armed Forces Day activities programme will also include a fun run, air force flypasts, and a simulated beach landing operation involving land, air, and sea divisions.
Officials confirmed they are in discussion with relevant local city and airport authorities to warn civilian vehicle, air and maritime traffic of possible schedule disruptions.