By Barry Bateman

The South African Army appointed a new Sergeant Major at a change of office parade at Thaba Tshwane on Friday.

Warrant Officer Class 1 Joseph Tshabalala takes over the reins from Sergeant Major Eddie Sykes as of December 1.

Chief of the Army Lieutenant General Solly Shoke said Sykes was known as a disciplinarian, but the new incumbent was competent to follow in his footsteps.

“Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.

“I hope to see him (Sykes) join the reserves where we can always consult with him and he can impart his knowledge to other soldiers,” he said at the parade attended by military top brass.

Sykes spoke highly of his former charges. “After more than 40 years of service, I would like to say to the soldier on the ground: thank you.

“Warrant Officer Tshabalala will be taking over one of the best armies in the world. He is the best man for the job, but he cannot work without the support of the other sergeant majors,” he said.

Tshabalala said he wanted to give his best to add value to the country and the army. “I will be guided by the army code of conduct and the directives from the President.

“As an ex-liberation fighter and member of Apla, the values learnt there and those of the new South Africa will help me forge a way forward,” he said.

In 1975 Tshabalala went into exile where he joined the Pan Africanist Congress's military wing. He received training in Tanzania, Libya and the People's Republic of China.

After integration he was based at Group 18 in Doornkop at 1 Signal Regiment. He was then promoted to Regimental Sergeant Major of Wonderboom Joint Support Base. In June 2003 he was promoted to Formation Warrant Officer of the Human Resources Support Centre.

“I will be acting as a team leader, not as an individual, and we will work together to serve the country and the South African Army,” said Tshabalala.