Public Works Minister on second oversight visit to AFB Durban

2727

The interest shown in flood repair work at Air Force Base (AFB) Durban by Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille is seen as further evidence the helicopter base will remain operational for a good while yet at its present site.

De Lille, in her second visit to the base in the wake of April’s torrential rain and floods, was accompanied by her deputy Noxolo Kiviet earlier this month. SA Air Force (SAAF) social media writer Lieutenant Phuti Badimo has it the ministerial visit was to “provide oversight following interventions of the department [of Public Works and Infrastructure] in repairing base infrastructure”.

De Lille is reported as saying she and her number two were “pleased with restoration work thus far” adding “there’s still work to be done”. She said further: “We would like the focus to be on preparing for the summer rains by clearing storm water drains and gutters to prevent possible damage to repaired infrastructure. Preventive measures need to be put in place to counter possible damages once the rainy season starts”.

The ministers inspected 15 Squadron’s hangar, the base combined mess and the junior non-commissioned officers’ living area, according to Badimo.

When the then Durban International Airport, where the base still operates from, was replaced by King Shaka International Airport ahead of South Africa hosting the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup, there were indications the lone SAAF base in KwaZulu-Natal would move. The new international airport at La Mercy, as well as Virginia Airport, Richards Bay and even Hluhluwe were touted as possible new homes for 15 Squadron.

It’s now 12 years on and all AFB Durban elements remain the lone aviation occupants of what was an international port of entry. This is despite current CAF, Lieutenant General Wiseman Mbambo, indicating a rethink of the base strategy to align it with the SAAF vision is on the cards.

In 2019 defenceWeb was told preliminary work on establishing a base at King Shaka was underway. This was said then to involve an environmental impact assessment and landscaping, understood by this publication to be earthworks associated with civil engineering and construction.

The official response at that time was: “The construction timeframe is five years, however, it will be moved to the right with a year due to the lost year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the time schedule, the new base is anticipated to be occupied around the end of 2025 to the beginning of 2026 provided no other external factors impede the construction progress”.