The senior command cadre of the SA Air Force (SAAF) has not won itself any friends, particularly in the Western Cape, by the late cancellation of the Wings and Wheels show due to have taken place at AFB Ysterplaat next weekend.
A five paragraph statement issued by Major General Wiseman Mbambo, General Officer Commanding Air Command, more than 24 hours after base personnel were informed the show had been canned, said: “After a due diligence review of arrangements for the show and several attempts at corrective action, Air Force Command found it difficult to reconcile the show with the SAAF’s vision and strategic outcomes”.
“The command subsequently decided there was no option but to cancel the airshow.”
Months of planning have gone down the drain and indications are a number of exhibitors will be seeking legal redress. At the same time the cancellation of the event has hit Ysterplaat personnel hard with one insider saying base Commander Colonel Chris Stroebel was “gutted” when he had to tell his people as well as other show stakeholders it wasn’t going to happen.
“It was a very awkward meeting because he could not give any reasons for the cancellation to those present,” one of the people present at Tuesday’s meeting said.
Mbambo mentions austerity measures, including the scaling down of SAAF participation at airshows, as another reason not to go ahead with the Wings and Wheels show.
According to him the SAAF “earlier this year instituted austerity measures”. Former SAAF Chief Lieutenant (ret) General Carlo Gagiano used last year’s Air Force Day parade in February to point out the airborne arm of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) was entering a period of austerity.
The opening paragraph of the statement reads: “The SAAF’s vision is ‘An Air Force that Inspires Confidence’. Its desired strategic outcomes are to be ready for conceivable contingencies, to be able to sustain its capabilities and operations, to reduce safety risks to as low as reasonably practicable, to comply with the regulatory framework and to maintain a positive image”.
“While contingencies, capabilities and operations are all understandable in any military organisation the positive image the SAAF seeks to maintain has most definitely taken a knock with the cancellation of the Ysterplaat show,” an insider told defenceWeb.
Western Cape newspapers reported Guptagate (the unauthorised arrival at AFB Waterkloof of a chartered aircraft bringing wedding guests of the Zuma-connected Gupta family to South Africa) with its breaches of security was behind the cancellation. Die Burger said the SAAF did not want to find itself facing “another debacle” where air force facilities were used for financial gain.
The newspaper said organisers of the Wings and Wheels event, which was to have run on December 7 and 8, called the cancellation “an error of epic proportions”.
More than 60 000 people were expected to attend the two-day event, which was set to host a wide variety of Air Force and private commercial and military aircraft.
As if canning Wings and Wheels was not enough AFB Ysterplaat base management have now had to tell the die-hard group of enthusiasts who turn up every month to enjoy the fire and thunder from the start-up of engines oon the Cape Town branch of the SAAF Museum’s Shackleton this will also not be happening next week. No reasons have been given for it not taking place.