THE Minister of defence and the top brass of South Africa’s military have agreed that a former Durban resident was the best man to serve as the country’s Defence Adviser in New Delhi, India.
Brigadier-General Kevin Moonsamy, a decorated military officer with 35 years of national service, mainly in the air force, will take up the position on May 1.
The 53-year-old’s main duties on the subcontinent during his 4-year term in office will be to enhance the country’s military interests, promote brand South Africa and assist, when required, his countrymen who travel there.
Moonsamy, who will work closely with veteran politician Sbu Ndebele, the South African High Commissioner to India, said: “I am humbled and blessed to get the opportunity.”
His wife Janessa, who is also a member of the air force, holding the rank of Warrant Officer Class 1, will accompany him.
Janessa’s responsibilities will include ambassadorial duties alongside her husband, and engaging with other defence attaches’ spouses.
“Janessa has made another sacrifice so that my military career is advanced. She is excited, and we will ensure that we protect and enhance our country’s image,” Moosamy promised.
Some of his other military duties will include promoting locally manufactured armaments with his Indian counterparts and growing foreign investment. Moonsamy plans to be a mouthpiece for tourism and “anything proudly South African”.
He also engage with Indian air force heads on military training drills to the benefit of both nations.
“I am the director of education and development, based at the air force’s headquarters in Pretoria. I head all training in the air force from basic skills to pilot training.
Moonsamy said the position was not one that could be applied for. Instead, the chief of service in the defence force nominated individuals. Then, the defence force chief and the minister must okay the appointment before it is promulgated.
He always aspired to rise above his humble beginnings and believed a career in the defence force was the way to go. He completed his matric at Phoenix’s Earlington Secondary.
To fulfil his military ambitions, he joined the navy in 1987. Apartheid polices prevented him from considering other arms of service.
Moonsamy enlisted in the navy’s SAS Jalsena Corps, the designated unit for South Africans of Indian descent.
His seized the opportunity to join the 508 Protection Squadron, attached to the air force, which came in 1989.
By 1996 he became the air force’s drill and physical training instructor.
Having completed an officer’s training course, a year later, he landed the “officership trophy” before being promoted to training officer at the air force gymnasium, as a lieutenant.
He climbed the military ranks and held various senior positions in the air force, including the chief instructor at the Air Force College in 2008 and commanding officer in 2011.
Moonsamy’s work took him to many parts of the world, to attend courses, as well as peace-keeping missions in war-torn countries.
His brigadier-general appointment came in 2017 and he is currently the defence force’s only general of Indian descent.
He said his progress was the result of hard work, tertiary studies and his commitment to serve his country with “military precision” and excellence.
“I am humbled by my achievements, but any soldier who is rank-orientated is not fit to serve. You must do the work and recognition will be achieved.”
One of Moonsamy’s proudest moments was to receive the coveted Military Merit Medal for outstanding service in 1999.
“I was the training officer at the Air Force Gymnasium at the time and was also heavily involved in the post-democracy integration of non-statutory forces (NSF) into the defence force.
“Some of them were much older than me, but as a young man, I had to develop them into airmen.”
They all were integrated successfully and my commander decided to nominate me for this award,” Moonsamy recalled.
Another treasured memory was his interactions with former president Nelson Mandela, while he was based in Durban.
“I performed a role similar to that of an aide-de-camp (a confidential assistant) to Mandela.
“When he came to Durban, before flying home to Mthatha, our chats lasted for hours, at times.”
Moonsamy received the special Nelson Mandela Medal after the former statesman's death in 2013, which was handed to everyone who worked closely with him and was involved in the funeral.
His son, Corporal Sven Moonsamy, a member of the air force who also holds a private pilot’s licence, has followed in his footsteps and Moonsamy said his daughter Serenell, currently a third-year university student, is also contemplating joining the military in the future.
Vinesh Selvan, of the South African Indian Legion of Military Veterans, an organisation that has been capturing the history of South African’s of Indian descent in the military, said Moonsamy’s latest achievement was “yet another milestone in an outstanding career”.