In what will arguably be the most inspirational story for years to come, Lt-Col Mimy Matimbe was sworn in as the first woman officer commanding in the 76-year history of 4 Artillery Regiment on 7 April.
Officers, non-commissioned officers and troops gathered at the parade grounds on that momentous day to witness the change of command from Col G-man Jongile Maso to Lt-Col Matimbe.
On handing the sword of command to Matimbe, Maso said: ‘I took charge of the regiment in 2014. Three years down the line, the old guard must move out and the new guard must come in. It is historic that a woman is becoming the OC of 4Art.’
After handing over the reins, Maso will be relocating to Bloemfontein to take up a post at the Department of Defence Mobilisation Centre. He says he will play a role at this army depot where forces are mobilised for external deployment and peace-keeping.
The new, 39-year-old commander and BCom graduate was born in Mamelodi, Pretoria.
She says this is a dream come true for her and, despite the challenges women continue to face every day, they are able to defy the odds and overcome those hurdles. ‘There is a general sentiment that women are the weaker gender. I have proved them wrong and proved that we can do much more, and better.
I am a single parent and had to leave my daughter behind when I started my military career. However, with the support of my mother, I was able to achieve my goals, while she took care of my daughter, Palesa.
‘My message to women and especially military women is that I have paved a way and opened doors for them. They can also do it because they have the potential,’ she said proudly.
Although she will be the woman at the helm of the best operational artillery unit in the SANDF, she wants to take it to even greater heights. ‘I am looking forward to the support of my staff to accomplish this. It is not an easy post but I am looking forward to it.’ Matimbe says she will do her utmost to perform her duties and will heed the words of John Buchan who said: ‘The role of a great leader is not to give greatness to human beings but to help them extract the greatness they already have inside them.’