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Diplomacy in Defence

18 September 2018

The distinction between conscription and national service was pointed out by Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Hon Mapisa-Nqakula when she addressed members of the media at a briefing  ahead of the 10th Africa Aerospace and Defence Exhibition (AAD) taking place at the Waterkloof Air Base in Tshwane, South Africa.

Photo: Leon Dillman, Chief Executive of the Civil Aviation Association of SA, Florence Musengi, Chairperson of South African Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Industry Association, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Sam Gulube, Secretary for Defence, Kholisile Khumalo, Youth Development program manager and Kevin Wakeford, Chief Executive Armscor

Conscription, explained the Minister, harks back to a time of the notoriety of the apartheid era defence force which made it compulsory for young men to serve in the military, and it was an offence punishable by  law and incarceration if you refused.  The Minister stated that there is an ongoing debate with regards to national service for the citizens of South Africa as South Africans grapple with socio-economic transformation.

Defence Diplomacy as part of Economic Diplomacy is the real driver of the AAD 2018 South Africa.  It is the largest exhibition of its kind in Africa and growing steadily as one the largest in the world. There are over 300 exhibitors representing 37 countries and 90 delegations from 47 countries that are expected to attend the event from 19-23 of September 2018. It will commemorate the centenary of Nelson Mandela and Albertina Sisulu, icons of freedom and democracy.

Unlocking Africa’s Aerospace and Defence Potential, the theme for this year, keeping abreast with modernization and innovation to sustainably contribute to the stability and growth is always a key outcome.  The many agreements, contracts and protocols reached will determine the monetary and exchange value that is created.

The lasting economic impact of a gathering like this in an emerging nation like South Africa is paramount. Skills transfer, knowledge sharing and strategic partnerships that proactively engage the new industrial age and that translates to meaningful work, social stability and an empowered nation is the outcomes needed.

Referring to the history of South Africa’s chequered military past during the times of the arms embargo against the country, Minister Mapisa-Nqakula reminded us of the bitter sweet relationship between the people of South Africa and its defence forces.

The vision to temper a brutal and oppressive military that was deployed against its own people and transform it to serve the sovereignty of all South Africans is being realised. This defence exhibition is geared towards the youth. They will be the ones that will be engaging with the advent of artificial intelligence, robotics and cybertronics. Training and teaching these skills is also an opportunity in itself.

The continued debate on conscription or national service is being challenged by a private sector that offers fulfilling career opportunities to those that take an interest and make the time and effort to position themselves in the burgeoning aerospace and defence sectors.  

K Bhana




February/March 2020

















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