Chief of the SA Army Honours Former Commando, 30 November 2011


On Wednesday 30 November 2011, the Chief of the SA Army, Lt Gen V.R. Masondo, presented the first Closure Commemoration Medals to 60 members who served in the commandos. This event took place at the SA Army College with the National Ceremonial Guard as the Guard of Honour.

The members were from the Reserve units in Gauteng and the Free State. The Reserve units, in turn, will award the medals to former commando members in their communities.

The medals are awarded to members who served in a disbanding component of the Reserves of the South African National Defence Force known as the Commandos to commemorate all those who, on or after 27 April 2003, completed five years of qualifying service. This is a visible recognition of all who served in the past. The medal is emblazoned with three .303 Lee Enfield Rifles surrounded by a laurel leaf. The ribbon is green and yellow. The colours that were used in the former Group Headquarters’ emblems.

The commandos were phased out as part of the Area Territorial Defence Capability, which formed part of the SA Army Infantry Formation and was structured in 20 group headquarters throughout the RSA. Each group headquarters was divided into various commandos in total. There were 183 commandos consisting of 52 000 serving members.

Since 2003, the commando members have had the opportunity to join the Conventional Reserve Unit (Regiments) or the SAPS Sector Policing Forums or to demobilise. A large number joined the Conventional Reserve Units and have since completed conversion training and have successfully deployed to the border areas as well as externally to the Sudan and DRC.

The commandos sprang from the ranks of the first “Free Burghers” in the Cape and the name commando is derived from the idea that they were soldiers who carried out the command and this is what the commandos have been doing since the first commando was sent into action against the Gonnema Tribe in 1674. The commandos became more organised and played a major role in the Great Trek and the Anglo-Boer Wars, where their guerrilla tactics and trench warfare were described as revolutionary.

During the latter half of the previous century, the commandos were responsible for rear area defence and some deployed successfully to the former South West Africa (Namibia). The commandos played a major role in disaster relief in assisting the SAPS. In this regard, their support during disasters such as the tornado in Welkom, the Laingsburg floods and, more recently, the Ellis Park soccer disaster is well known. Their support to the SAPS consisted of curbing stock theft, preventing farm attacks and arresting abalone smugglers as far as Meyerton.

A former Chief of the SA Army and South African Defence Force, General Jannie Geldenhuys, said “their main assests were mobility – due to their being mounted (mostly using their own vehicles) and also their knowledge of the terrain – almost uncanny marksmanship and natural skill in field craft”.

Lt Gen Masondo honoured the commando members who served in a volunteer organisation throughout many different political dispensations with the focus on a safe and secure community and commended them for willingly giving their time and resources to en   sure stability so that all could ultimately prosper.