chaplains service
About us


The Department of Defence comprises people who are spiritually, ethically and socially empowered.


The Chaplains Service representing a cross-section of the religious communities in SA, provides spiritual leadership to DOD members at home and on deployment in order to build human capacity that enhances spiritual, ethical and human wholeness. It does so within the context of religious diversity, taking cognizance of the transformation imperatives of the DOD and in support of democratic peace-building in Africa.


The Chaplainís Service is a support service within the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). Regular Force chaplains representing all the major religious bodies in the country are appointed to all four Arms of Service viz, Army, Navy and Military Health Services.

While Chaplains are all members of the Chaplains Service of the SANDF, they wear the uniform of the Arm of Service to which they are appointed. They also fall under command of the Chief of their respective Arms of Service. This however, does not preclude transfers from one Arm of Service to another.


Chaplains in the SANDF exercise their ministry as representatives of their religious bodies. In order to foster a spirit of inter-action and co-operation between the various religious bodies and the Office of the Chaplain General, the following religious advisory boards have been established:

o Security Services Christian Advisory Board which include African Indigenous/Initiated/Independent Churches
o Hindu Advisory Board
o Jewish Advisory Board
o Muslim Advisory Board

These boards are initiated by law to perform the duties of civil oversight over the Chaplains Services and to advise on policy and appointments of chaplains within the SANDF

Membership of these boards comprises representatives from the respective religious bodies and from the Office of the Chaplain General. This representation is essential to safeguard against domination by the State in matters pertaining to what is essentially the ministry of the various religious bodies to their members in the SANDF. It also ensures that the content of this ministry accords with their beliefs and tenets.


All Chaplains are senior officers and accorded the protocol status of Colonel / Captain (Navy). They carry the military rank of Chaplain and the rank insignia, which is unique to the Chaplains Service, comprises a Chi-Rho monogramme surrounded by a triangle as illustrated below.

The monogramme represents the first three letters of Christ in Greek. It originates from the days of Constantine, the first Emperor of Rome to grant religious freedom to Christians. His own conversion to the Christian faith was initiated by a dream in which the Chi-Rho monogramme appeared to him. The triangle surrounding the monogramme is the symbolic representation of the Holy Trinity.

During the vision of the monogramme, Constantine heard the words In hoc signo vinci. The English translation of these Latin words means, In this sign conquer. This is the motto of the Chaplains Service and forms part of the Corps Badge.

The Hindu faith is represented by a Regular Force chaplain. The rank is Cpln (Vipra) and the mode of address Vipra.

The rank insignia is a deepa (lamp) with flame. This is the symbolic representation of enlightenment, the life objective of all Hindus.

The Muslims do not have Regular Force chaplains in the SANDF because of they are small in number. They are however served by part time workers through the Chaplains Service of the SANDF and are addressed according to their religious customs as imams.

Christian chaplains are generally referred to and addressed as Padre. They may however, be addressed according to the practice of their religious bodies eg, Father, Pastor, Umfundisi (Zulu and Xhosa), Moruti (Sotho), Dominee (Afrikaans) etc.

The official written form of address is Cpln (for Chaplain) followed by the appropriate ecclesiastical title of the respective chaplain eg, Cpln (Rev), Cpln (Fr), Cpln (Pastor), Cpln, etc.


The chaplain in the South African National Defence Force is:

CALLED to minister in the SANDF

Has a passion and commitment to serve God within the Department of Defence (DOD)

HELPER to all

Willing and able to assist all people with their religious, social and moral needs

ADAPTABLE to the military environment

Physically and mentally able to serve in operational situations

PRESENCE ministry

Being with members wherever they live, work, play or deploy

LEADS by example

Action and deeds that enhance a chaplains teaching / words

ALL people are ministered to

Able to work inter-denominationally in giving religious support


Ensures good relations with all people in the DoD (leaders and followers)

NEW HOPE Facilitator

Proclaims a message of hope, solutions, life and reconciliation to all people in need