SAAF Command Council hears funding abuse will ground it

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Lieutenant General Wiseman Mbambo’s SA Air Force (SAAF) Command Council strategic work session – the second of the year – acknowledges problem areas and notes an “updated strategy” is “real progress” with implementation next on the agenda.

Today (30 November) is the final day of the work session in Bredasdorp which follows a similar gathering at the Ditholo Nature Reserve north of Pretoria in March.

The three-star is reported by Ad Astra editor, Captain Tebogo August, as telling the Command Council he “sought clarity” on the proposed innovation strategy. Without this, he said “we will miss some very key elements that will make it very difficult to achieve”. He wanted interrogation of why “we seem not to be able to implement certain action plans correctly,” asking “what are the hurdles towards getting us to where we need to go, as not all of them are financial”.

“When we leave here, we need to have come up with a solid plan on how we are going to jump over those hurdles and how best to permanently get rid of them.”

In terms of “problem areas” the work session acknowledged issues including unavailability of aircraft, lack of spares, procurement issues, unserviceable air conditioning at the SAAF Headquarters “that rendered the building [un]inhabitable”, shortage of uniform and more. Mbambo said “optimism” was needed. “If we can resolve all these issues, starting with command and control, if we can do that, we will be able to hold each other and ourselves accountable,” a report on the work session reads in part, adding full resourcing of air servicing units and squadrons was a start to “successful operations and improved aircraft serviceability”.

On the ever-present defence funding shortfall, Mbambo told the work session it was “unclear” how deployments requiring air assets will be funded going ahead. Next up are the 2024 national and provincial elections with “a lot” expected from the SAAF and the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).

General Officer Commanding (GOC) Air Command, Major General Sipiwo Dlomo, on the issue of proper financial control, told the work session: “If we misplace, abuse and use funds in a misguided way, there will be no air force to talk about. If we get accountability right, then the air force will not only run, but it will fly.”