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Event a ‘tremendous success’

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Thousands of residents lined the city’s streets yesterday to observe the parade which started off from the Cenotaph World War Memorial

HONOUR: President Cyril Ramaphosa, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and SANDF chief General Solly Shoke during the Armed Forces Day Parade. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

THE WEEK-long celebrations that culminated in the SANDF’s Armed Forces Day parade in Kimberley yesterday have been hailed as a “tremendous success” for the Northern Cape as well as the men and women in uniform.

Thousands of residents lined the city’s streets yesterday to observe the parade which started off from the Cenotaph World War Memorial.

The parade marked the successful end to a week’s worth of events and demonstrations held by the SANDF in and around the Diamond City.

More than 3 000 armed forces members and a convoy of military vehicles paraded through the city streets yesterday after President Cyril Ramaphosa had delivered the morning’s main address at the Cenotaph, which coincided with a commemoration of the sinking of the SS Mendi.

The spokesperson for the SA Air Force, Colonel Eugene Motati, said that the military had reached the target that it had set out during the initial planning of the event.

“This event was a tremendous success and we as the armed forces would not be able to have pulled it off without the co-operation and partnership of the provincial government departments as well as the broader community of the Northern Cape,” said Motati yesterday.

“Everyone, from the people who assisted in cleaning the streets or cutting the trees to the those in the offices who were responsible for communicating to all parties, including the spectators at the fan park, played a vital part in the event.

“We invaded the space of the residents of the city and we were received with warm greetings and open hearts. People showed great respect and honour to all of our officials. There was such a positive disposition from the residents. I am truly impressed by the attitude of the people and the manner in which they accommodated us.”

Motati pointed out that the week was not just a “show-off event” to highlight the capabilities of the armed forces.

“We showcased our capabilities during the demonstrations at the fan park and other events held at the schools. This event, however, also served as a military exercise for our members. We mobilised all spectrums of the military and will have a debrief session to assess where we can improve and address issues that went wrong and how we will correct it,” he said.

The AR Abass Stadium was buzzing with excitement this past week as more than 12 000 pupils were joined by hundreds of community members who watched the military demonstrations.

A number of events, such as aerobatic and formation flying, parachute jumping, bridge laying demonstrations and drill artillery, were showcased at the fan park.

Motati added that the fan park also served as a career exhibition centre for pupils who might want to join the SANDF.

“The greatest achievement is that our people understand us better now. The career exhibition planted an interest in pupils and they saw that the army was not a rehabilitation centre. The military was in the past viewed as a centre which accepts youngsters who have problems with discipline. The youth now understand that the military is not a gun-wielding society and that there are many career opportunities in the military. We only accept those with sober habits, excellent grades and excellent health.

“Youngsters must bear in mind that it is not only their grades that will make them qualify for the military, but also their health. They need to be fit, as one cannot just boast with a great academic record, as failing the medical trials will result in them being disqualified.”

Motati said that although residents had been fearing major traffic chaos due to road closures yesterday, the SANDF had revised its schedule and limited any obstruction in the city.

“The initial plan was to have the parade at 10am, but it was later shifted to 8am as we realised there were schools, hospitals and businesses that were situated close to the World War monument. Blockading the roads for many hours would have caused a major inconvenience to those who needed access to those facilities. We had to clear the roads as fast as possible in order for things to return to normality,” he said.

Motati said that there is as yet no indication as to which city will host the next Armed Forces Day event.

“We are not sure which province and city we will head to next. We do know that the navy now has the responsibility to organise the next event. The capacity and infrastructure of the town picked will also determine where we will go next.

“We know there was some unhappiness over the capability demonstrations which had to take place in Bloemfontein this time around. The reason behind that was because there was no fitted facility or infrastructure in the Northern Cape. The safety of the community is of utmost importance during the planning of such an event,” Motati added.