The eThekwini Municipality is determined to continue its fight for an army base in central Durban.
The issue, initially raised by Mayor Zandile Gumede last month, was resurrected on Tuesday when Councillor Nkosenhle Madlala, who was representing the mayor and the host city, addressed the media, along with military dignitaries before the Armed Forces Day celebrations, which get under way on Thursday.
The mayor said recently that she wanted to have a central military base in Durban, from where the army could be deployed quickly in a crisis.
Madlala, in his call “for the return of the military base in Durban”, said the municipal officials believed the army had all the skills to save people from floods and other natural disasters, such as the current drought.
The city was also experiencing violence in hostels, he pointed out.
“We can’t risk a situation where the army is further away, especially as a coastal city,” he said.
Responding, Lieutenant-General Lindile Yam, the Chief of the SA Army, said there was already an army support base in Durban, as well as “a number of military units”.
Madlala told the press briefing held at one of the units, the Durban Light Infantry in Greyville, that the presence of the various forces in Durban for the celebrations would boost the economy of the city. The event would also enable local communities, including those in townships and rural areas, to interact with the SANDF.
The event also marked the centenary of the sinking of the SS Mendi, which went down in the English Channel with the loss of life of more than 600 members of the South African Native Labour Force. The ship “and all those lying under those waters” is recognised as a shipwreck under UK law and is therefore protected and respected, he said.
President Jacob Zuma will lay a wreath in memory of the men of the SS Mendi on Armed Forces Day on February 21.
With the defence force preparing to showcase its military might and state-of-the-art hardware and technology, planes, ships, tanks and other mechanised equipment arrived in Durban on Tuesday.
While en route to Durban from Bloemfontein on Monday, one SANDF soldier was killed and two were injured when a truck transporting an army tank they were travelling in, overturned in Bergville.
“We are still trying to find out what caused the incident, but it seems that the truck driver lost control of the vehicle,” Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi said.
The soldiers were part of the 10th regiment that specialises in tanks.
Mgobozi confirmed the casualties and said all the soldiers were in the truck when the incident happened on Monday evening.
Mgobozi would not reveal the soldiers’ names until their next of kin were notified.
He said the crash would not impact on the Armed Forces celebrations.
He also noted that with such a large number of soldiers and the logistics involved, it was always a possibility that this type of incident would occur.
Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane, police spokesperson, said Bergville police were investigating a case of culpable homicide. – Additional reporting by Mphathi Nxumalo.