in Defence

South Africa's military has new leaders

Posted 18 June 2021 · Add Comment

A change in the top echelons of South Africa's military has just been formalised in the space of one week, reports Sam Basch

Chief of the South African National Defence Force, General Solly Shoke, retired after ten years in the position – a rather long tenure. Holding office for so long obviously holds up promotions right through the ranks.

His replacement is General Rudzani Maphwanya, sworn in on May 28, in the presence of President Cyril Ramaphosa, Commander in Chief of the country’s armed forces.

The retreat parade in the military town of Thaba Tswhane in Pretoria involved paratroopers and a gun salute, while formations of aircraft roared overhead.

Interestingly, General Maphwanya has a long career leading South Africa’s Special Forces, probably the first Chief SANDF from this mustering.

On June 4, Lieutenant General Wiseman Mbambo was formally inducted as Chief of the South African Air Force at the historic Air Force Base Swartkop. Although no longer an active base, this is home to the SAAF Museum, which boasts heritage items from the founding years of the air force a century ago.

The Change of Command parade also served as farewell to the out-going air force chief, Lt Gen Fabian Msimang, whose retirement came after an unusually long eight years in that capacity.

Once again the Air Force put up a good show. All active units trooped their colours to the accompaniment of a military band, and against the background of a pair of Rooivalk and Oryx helicopters on the apron.

Approaching in a hazy sky were formations of helicopters, light and medium transport aircraft, trainers and fast jets in combat formation.

In a poignant ceremony, Msimang handed his successor a special hand-made dagger, the symbol of authority of South Africa’s air force chiefs. Lt Gen Mbambo is probably the first holding that position without wearing pilot’s wings.


A pair of Hercules C130BZ on ceremonial duties for the swearing in of the new Air Chief  (Image: Sam Basch)


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