South Africa: The South African Air Force (SAAF) turned 103 years old this year, and brave men and women assembled at Heartfelt Arena in Thaba Tshwane on 27 January 2023 to celebrate the courage, the leadership along with great memories as they reflected on the history of the organization that they fearlessly serve while accepting the challenges that came their way.
Some of them even sacrificed their own lives for their country. Those will surely always be everyone’s pride as some of their faces were displayed on the screen in the well-decorated hall while the sentiments, ‘We shall remember them,’ echoed through the roof in celebration of men and women who have proved themselves to be icons and real-life heroes of their country by taking actions that reflected their wisdom while serving.
The South African Chief of the South African Air Force, Lieutenant General Wiseman Mbambo, mentioned that “the history of the SA Air Force is punctuated with episodes of adversity, great achievements, uncertainty, failures, great visions, significant breakthroughs and during this entire period of our history, the common denominator has been and still remains our people, the members of the South African Air Force.
When a common pool from which everyone goes to for quenching their thirst is shrinking, nobody is spared from the consequent results; our national pool – the South African economy is currently not in good shape. The snowball impact is felt everywhere, including in the Department of Defence and equally in the South African Air Force.
As this reality continues, the mandate of the Air Force to ensure that the Republic of South Africa’s airspace territorial integrity still remains. Furthermore, the increased demand for air assets due to the upsurge of various security threats and disasters cannot be wished away.
The scenario is aptly captured by the Minister of Defence & Military Veterans, Thandi Modise, in her 2022 budget vote speech, where she mentions that: “there can be no doubt that there is a widening dichotomy between that which the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is expected to achieve and the resources that are provided to achieve these expectations.
The SA National Defence Force is spread so thin, we require a quantum leap of thinking including a significant discourse on the doctrine and combat capabilities that will be relevant for the future,” said Veterans.
Still, on the status of the SA Air Force, Lieutenant General Wiseman Mbambo said,” the SA Air Force is already a step ahead in advocating different approaches of dealing with the scarce resources dilemma and the need to leapfrog our thinking in resolving these challenges is no longer a luxury but an absolute necessity.”
Our different capabilities are undergoing strain and constraints in various ways; these challenges are at the centre of the SA Air Force and the Department of Defence leadership’s attention. We are tirelessly working towards solutions within the existing limitations while our continuous engagements with all key role players to bring Air Force capabilities to the required combat readiness status is persistent. We are clear about our ultimate objectives, and we will spur no moment to achieve them, said Mbambo.
Furthermore, he added, “The mandate to defend our country and to ensure the safety of the South African airspace territorial integrity is deeply tattooed in our conscience. In this regard, our pursuit of solutions to our challenges will continue to be robust behind the boardrooms and everywhere because time is not on our side. To focus and prioritize capabilities is not simply within the domains of limited resources and rising security threats all around.”
A leader is truly a man or woman who can adapt principles to circumstances; that should be why the Chief of Air Force is embarking on a drive towards a paper-less Air Force, saying, “When we echo our slogan “free the eagle” we are challenging the status quo of thinking, breaking the traditional walls of looking at our challenges and resolving them. We believe the critical step in this journey of freeing the eagle is the mindset change throughout the organization, at lower, middle and top level echelons of the SA Air Force.
The mindset change will be robustly driven in various ways and in bold steps going forward. I have ordered my staff officer to remove the fax details from my business card. I don’t believe it makes sense to have fax machines in the world of scanners and the internet.
I am determined to leapfrog the SA Air Force forward in whatever way possible so that it can change for the better. I am equally challenging the SA Air Force members at all levels to challenge the status quo and devise ways and means to embrace opportunities that are embedded within the existing technologies.
It is abnormal to rely on slow turn-around procedures in communication when the world is moving with dazzling speed on platforms like social media and digital information technology.
Magazine and print media-driven information is slowly becoming outdated as information circulation is moving faster than the speed of our printing machines.
Therefore, the SA Air Force will adapt very quickly to these developments, and my instructions are very clear to Directorate Corporate Staff Service, leapfrog your thinking and align SA Air Force communication systems accordingly. The eagle cannot afford to remain behind in the field of communication.
Lieutenant General Mbambo explained that “the contestation for the Best Performing Air Force Base was very tight, and three Bases were nominated for the coveted trophy of the best base of the year 2022.
Mbambo also Congratulated the Air Force Base Overberg and the Base Officer Commanding and his team members for this great achievement, allowing me to award them their deserved trophies.
In the words of Sir Winston Churchill saying, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts” I would like to extend my profound appreciation to the members of the parade and those who have organized everything for this parade, we still believe that as a military organization, we must continue to grow our own timber. In my view, growing the timber must also be interlinked with nurturing and caring for that timber in a more substantive manner.
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