Mbambo awards long service medals to SAAF members, sets scene for changes to come


The South Africa Air Force (SAAF) honored its long serving members yesterday (25 November) with a medal parade at Air Force Base Swartkop.

The event kicked off with a fly past by two A109 helicopters, one carrying the South African flag and the other, the SAAF flag. A short parade from the SAAF band and members was enjoyed by guests before the handing out of 40- and 30-year long service medals.

Two SAAF members received 40-year service medals and 51 SAAF members received 30-year service medals. The medals are given to those who have sacrificed most of their lives and displayed “enviable loyalty” to the SAAF. The medals are called the “Medalje vir Troue Diens” (Medals for Loyal Service), signifying the commitment those members have had to the SAAF.

Chief of the SAAF, Lieutenant General Wiseman Mbambo addressed SAAF members and guests and congratulated the recipients of the medals in saying, “In the military, medals become your recognition that you carry with you and hold as well as dress and keep close to your heart. That on its own should show you how important and dear these medals are.”

In noting the latest developments in the SAAF, Mbambo was proud to mention the seven young SAAF members who received qualifications in Russia and Air Force Base Waterkloof’s new chief air traffic control officer, Lieutenant Colonel Nthabiseng Thlagale. Mbambo also mentioned the passing of 21-year veteran, Lieutenant Colonel Caro Duven, the first woman in Africa to pilot a C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft.

The three-star general raised the issue of cost of employees (CoE) in the defence force and said members must get ready to tighten their belts. “There are a few positive changes that the South African Air Force has sat around the table and discussed. This is to bring the change that our Air Force needs. I hope we will positively adjust to change that will come,” said Mbambo.

The top ranks of the SAAF have been planning for the strategic direction of the SA Air Force in 2022. Mbambo is set to announce these plans sometime in the relatively near future, but an exact date cannot yet be given.

The Coronavirus pandemic, ageing and unserviceable aircraft, a high CoE in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), new threats to security in Southern Africa and a declining defence budget mean an uncertain and unstable future for the SAAF, Mbambo said.

The overcast day was concluded with Mbambo stating the SAAF will develop a “gyroscope character”, meaning it will seek to maintain a balance within the unstable environment it finds itself in.