Crowds on Sunrise Beach, Muizenberg, were wowed as the country’s armed forces put on an impressive night shoot demonstration. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - While Armed Forces Day was a successful display of the SANDF’s firepower, not everyone appreciated the noise and distress it caused.

Conservation biologist Heidi-Jayne Hawkins said the event traumatised people and animals.

The night shoots involved tanks, G5 cannons, heavy artillery, rocket launchers, missiles and more than 10 000 rounds of munitions on Sunrise Beach, Muizenberg.

Hawkins said firing at floating targets out at sea was of “great concern” as the shock waves from explosions would travel under water to affect marine life.

Armed Forces Day is a six-day event that started in Mandela Park Sports Stadium in Khayelitsha last Saturday, but ended on Thursday with a SS Mendi commemoration by President Cyril Ramaphosa and a capability demonstration in Blaauberg, Table View. 

The event's activities honoured the men and women killed in the line of duty and those who continue to serve the country.  The celebrations also coincided with the commemoration of the sinking of the SS Mendi on February 21, 1917, when more than 600 South African men perished in the icy waters of the English Channel, of which 607 were from the SA Native Labour Corps and 33 were crew members.

Crowds on Sunrise Beach, Muizenberg, were wowed as the country’s armed forces put on an impressive night shoot demonstration. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)
Conservation biologist Heidi-Jayne Hawkins said the event traumatised people and animals. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency

Hawkins said: “The effects of military activities range from hearing loss to death in fish, marine mammals such as whales, dolphins, sea lions and seals, invertebrates and other marine organisms.

“The SANDF should have had a monitoring plan in place prior to the event to establish a baseline and measure the impact of gunfire and explosions on marine animal stocks, trauma and deaths.”

Hawkins said such a plan could have allowed the SANDF to defend its actions but, “as it stands, they have no way of confirming or denying negative impacts on marine or other wildlife”.

SANDF spokesperson Mafi Mgobozi said the SANDF valued the work that conservationists and biologists do to ensure valuable natural resources that “our country is endowed with are protected and thrive for future generations to enjoy”. 

Mgobozi said they partnered with the City to ensure that all measures were put in place to minimise harm to the environment. 

He said all City by-laws were adhered to.

“We have embarked on an extensive consultation process with fishing communities and the City’s environmental health services in our efforts to preserve our country’s biodiversity.” 

Mgobozi said they employed the services of their own occupational health and environmental safety officers to safeguard “our vital marine resources in the area”.

As part of the Armed Forces Day celebrations, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula handed over a refurbished Siviwe School of Skills in Gugulethu on Tuesday.

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Cape Argus