Chief of the South African Air Force (SAAF), Lieutenant General Fabian Zimpande Msimang, is due to retire on Wednesday after eight years in the position. His successor has not been announced.
The SAAF plans to hold a parade for Msimang at Air Force Base Swartkop on Wednesday and numerous aircraft, including fast jets and PC-7 trainers, have been seen practicing around Pretoria for a flypast.
According to defence expert and Director at Africa Defence Review Darren Olivier, Msimang’s term in office has been “distinguished” and “difficult”.
He states that the President and Minister of Defence not announcing his successor for unknown reasons “has prevented a smooth hand over of duties to the incoming chief, and has left headquarters staff confused and uncertain. It’s hardly ideal from any perspective, and there’s no reason the choice if it has been made should be kept a secret until the last minute.
“Worse, there’s the possibility that the president and minister have not managed to pick a successor as Chief of the Air Force, but intend to extend Msimang’s tenure at the last minute. If so, it’s terribly unfair to both Msimang and those vying to replace him.
“After all, Lt Gen Msimang is evidently sure that he retires on Wednesday, as per standard procedure. He has been to every SA Air Force unit on a farewell tour, and a retirement parade is planned. Extending his term at this stage would be disruptive and awkward to say the least.
“So now we are in the ridiculous situation where the incumbent head of the SA Air Force is set to resign this week and nobody either inside or outside the organisation seems to have any idea who will be replacing him in this extremely important role. It’s bizarre.
“It’s past time for the minister of defence to come out and state clearly what the succession plans are and who will be heading up the SA Air Force on 1 October. I’d also like to see Parliament’s defence committee look deeper into the entire process as it clearly needs reform,” Olivier concluded.
Msimang is retiring now because he is 60 years old, which is the mandatory retirement age in the SANDF, and his appointment date was 1 October 2012. The minister of defence may however unilaterally extend that to 65, as was done with SANDF Chief General Solly Shoke.