Determined to see SA Air Force change for better: Chief Mbambo

South Africa: The Chief of the SA Air Force, Lieutenant General Wiseman Mbambo, stressed that ethical leadership must prevail at all levels of the South African Air Force.

South Africa: The Chief of the SA Air Force, Lieutenant General Wiseman Mbambo, stressed that ethical leadership must prevail at all levels of the South African Air Force.

He further stated that it is time that the SA Air Force leadership assumed an upright position with immediate effect as the concerns that came out of the survey cannot afford to be ignored any further.

General Mbambo was saying this at a communication forum that was held on 29 and 30 November 2022 at the SA Air Force Headquarters, where he met with the SA Air Force leadership and members to unpack the progress on the intent that he shared around May this year after a work session that was held in Ditholo (Hammanskraal).

“Leadership is the most significant enabler or barrier in the successful implementation of organisational strategy. The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine will have an indirect impact on the Republic of South Africa and, by extension, the SA National Defence Force and the SA Air Force. The situation requires close monitoring concerning immediate, short, medium, and long-term implications for the SA Air Force. Military appreciation and timeous advice to the SA Air Force leadership are critical to ensure that the SA Air Force is proactive in its planning rhythm.”

In his Medium Term Strategic Framework, he lamented the current contracting model of the SA Air Force, saying that “it is not at a preferred efficacy scale because we pay more fixed costs with very little or nothing to serviceable and available capabilities. The SA Air Force contracting philosophy and management must be revisited to ensure value for money across all capability areas. There is enough knowledge, suitable facilities and equipment to commence the SA Air Force’s in-house design and manufacturing capabilities. We need a new pathway towards innovation that will propel the SA Air Force towards its new vision. Our outsourcing footprint is too large, and in the process, we deprive our young engineers and technicians of opportunities to grow.

We need to improve in financial management and what also requires some urgent attention is how we use the limited resources that are allocated to us. Our net assessment must be logical to what we need to do, less voluminous and ambiguous.

Furthermore, it must appeal to both the intellectual and the ordinary mind, and it must provide technical updates without introducing a fundamental overhaul of the entire system.

The SA Air Force must migrate from its current unfavourable position to its envisioned destination. We will certainly get there, through our vision that says: “Projecting Effective Air and Space Power through Innovation in the theatre of our operations.”

On communication, he said it was “pivotal to the success or failure of the Air and Space Power strategy implementation of the SA Air Force. The demand for timeous, detailed and accurate internal and external communication on material issues of the SA Air Force vision, strategy and plans is imperative to appropriately compete with the trending topics on different social media platforms. The image of the SA National Defence Force in general and the SA Air Force, in particular, is of cardinal importance.”

On the results of the survey that was used to diagnose the current challenges faced by the SA Air Force, he said, “the survey points to low morale and many other material concerns within the organisation; it is my command and expectation that ethical leadership must prevail at all levels of the SA Air Force. The undertaking made to the members that feedback in terms of action plans to address the concerns must be honoured without fail. Remedial action plans must be executed with immediate effect by all that are allocated those responsibilities.”

In his overview, he mentioned, “the involvement of the SA National Defence Force in the current two external operations (MONUSCO and SAMIM) has a direct impact on the commitment of the SA Air Force’s air transport and helicopter capabilities.

Given the degree of unpredictability of the conflict in the near future, it will be imprudent for the SA Air Force not to appreciate the possible employment of fighter capabilities. Additional to the two external operational commitments, there is also internal theatre support to other state departments to attend various contingencies such as the 2021 July unrests and the recent floods in the KwaZulu-Natal province.”

The Chief of the Air Force reported on the progress of the deliverables that needed to be implemented, monitored and measured on a continuous basis, which was a responsibility of the extended Air Force Command Council, comprising of the SA Air Force Executive and all the system group directors and directors in the SA Air Force. Among those was “the establishment of a Space Command, which is what Brigadier General Lancelot Mathebula presented earlier today. He gave a preview of what that Space Command will look like, and what relevance Air and Space Power have with the SA National Defence Force’s journey to greatness. It is important to note that the 4th Industrial Revolution does not favour those who are characterised by a slow pace and lengthy procrastination.

The SA Air Force must create an internal balance of being a consumer and a producer in the technology space, and this cannot be achieved unless we make a deliberate effort to invest in our people and upskill them to become great in matters of Air and Space Power. While busy with that, we also need to develop a customised budget for the SA Air Force capabilities, among other tasks. These prospects must be embraced and explored precisely to ensure that they deliver the desired outcome.”