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PostPosted: 01 Aug 2022, 11:30 
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1 Aug 2022: defenceWeb
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SANDF should be red-faced after CNavy didn’t exit as announced

Kim Helfrich

At best it can be described as a failure to communicate. At worst, it’s an indictment of poor management and succession planning showing all is definitely not well in the top echelons of both the Department of Defence (DoD) and the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).

The “it” referred to is the non-exit of SA Navy (SAN) Chief, Vice Admiral Mosiwa Hlongwane. That he was due to leave the CNavy suite of offices in Visagie Street, Pretoria, at the end of June was common knowledge and saw, as one example, defenceWeb publish a speculative report on his possible successor.

Another was the June/July edition of Navy News. The service’s official publication carried a front page picture of Hlongwane and his wife, Thandi. Inside Hlongwane used his regular “CNavy calling” editorial slot to bid the men and women under his command – supposedly until 30 June 2022 – farewell. A scheduled farewell/change of command parade at the SAN Martello sportsgrounds in Simon’s Town was cancelled/postponed with no reasons given.

On 4 July this publication asked the SANDF Directorate: Corporate Communication (DCC), the ranking media liaison office in the national defence force, and Naval Public Relations at SAN Headquarters who would succeed Hlongwane and whether it would be a permanent or acting posting. As of today (1 August) no response has been received, despite multiple queries.

A different perspective on South Africa’s senior naval officer came via a SANDF social media posting. It was one of many making sure the country, especially regular social media consumers, were aware of men and women in uniform across the force doing their bit for Mandela Day (18 July) and the week around the UN declared international commemoration of South Africa’s first democratically elected president.

A picture showed Hlongwane and his wife at Mqiniswa Primary School. SAN Headquarters and SAS Immortelle staff undertook renovation work at the Vanderbijlpark school as their Mandela Day effort.

The thought “that shouldn’t be” saw an urgent request to Naval Public Relations for clarification. A single sentence response confirms the three-star is still in uniform and in the Visagie Street SAN headquarters “until further notice”, but no further explanation was forthcoming.

Surely the powers that be at the DoD, including Minister Thandi Modise, and the SANDF should timeously announce senior appointments?

The abrupt manner in which the Hlongwane exit or non-exit – depending on where one sits – was handled smacks of either incompetence or not wanting to tell South Africans what’s happening in “their” national defence force.

This is not the first time SANDF succession planning hit speedbumps. When former SA Air Force (SAAF) Chief Lieutenant General Fabian Msimang retired in September 2020 it took nine months to find a permanent replacement (Lieutenant General Wiseman Mbambo), with Major General Mzayifani Buthelezi interim chief for nearly a year. That the SANDF struggles with succession planning is cause for concern, as is the lack of communication in this regard from DCC.

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