MK veteran turned trainer is new chief of SA Army

Members of the South African National Defence Force. File image
Members of the South African National Defence Force. File image
Image: LOYISO MPALANTSHANE

Parliament's portfolio committee on defence and military veterans has commended the appointment of Lt-Gen Lawrence Mbatha as the new chief of the SA Army.

Mbatha's record of service dates back to the ANC's armed struggle against apartheid in the 1980s.

He completed his first commander's course in Angola, followed by an urban fighting instructor’s course in East Germany.

He subsequently did a senior command and joint staff course at Shrivenham College and a certificate in strategic leadership from the Defence Academy Cranefield University in the UK.

He was a member of the politics and research department of MK ANC in Ngoma, Uganda, from 1989 to 1990 and was MK regional commander of the Northern Cape from 1991 to 1994.

After the integration of the armies of the liberation movements and the SA Defence Force into the SA National Defence Force in 1994, Mbatha was appointed as a provincial integration officer (MK) and SO2 Operations as part of the Ops Room Northern Cape Command.

Before his new appointment, Mbatha held the position of general officer commanding Training Command, the unit responsible for education, training and development.

Chairperson of parliament's defence portfolio committee Cyril Xaba said: “The appointment comes at a crucial time for the country, in light of the current challenges due to Covid-19 and the pivotal role of the SANDF in enforcing the lockdown measures.

“The vast experience he gained from the positions he held as a tutor for the basic education in Quibaxe camp 13 in Angola in the '80s, the company commander at 3 SA Infantry Battalion from 1996—1997 and as general officer commanding SA Military Academy from 2012 -2017 places him in an ideal position for this appointment.”

Mbatha replaces the former chief of the army, Lt-Gen Thabiso Mokhosi, who died in December.

“These are some big shoes to fill, but we are confident that Lt Gen Mbatha has the experience, the wisdom and the courage to steer our troops and our country in the right direction,” said Xaba.

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