South African Air Force commissions Cuban graduates


Chief of the SA Air Force, Lieutenant General Zimpande Msimang, bestowed commissions on South African Air Force (SAAF) candidate officers who completed various courses in Cuba at the Air Force College in Pretoria on Friday.

The twenty-seven candidate officers underwent training in disciplines such as engineering, aviation, air traffic control and technical disciplines. The General began by acknowledging the good relations between the two countries and recognising the role played by Cuba during the struggle for liberation in South Africa, citing the contribution of that country’s late revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro, the SAAF said.

He reminisced his qualifying days as a young man together with Deputy Chief of the Air Force, Major General Mzayifani Buthelezi, Chief Air Staff Operations Major General Octavia Mcetywa, Deputy Chief of Staff of the SA National Defence Force, Major General Wiseman Mbambo, and Major General (ret) Linda Selepe amongst others. They trained in foreign countries during the struggle for the liberation of South Africa. “You have touched my heart, you carried yourselves exceptionally well, and you kept your promise to me. Thank you,” he said.

Acknowledging the strict COVID-19 regulations under which members should abide and respect, Msimang thanked the students, their families, and friends as well as the organisers for adhering to the relevant protocols applicable to lockdown level one as per government guidelines. The General also threw a challenge at the Command Council of the SA Air Force that it is their duty to ensure that those officers are nurtured and allowed to plough back their knowledge into the SA Air Force.

Lieutenant Fezeka Duma from Sterkspruit in the Eastern Cape was acknowledged for achieving number two position in the overall achievement in the group of 350 and number one in the foreign legion of about 150 on course. Other students who were part of the course came from countries like Venezuela, Angola as well as Vietnam. She was only second to a local Cuban student.

“As your achievements belong to you they belong also to your unwavering support structures. It was a community project. This journey would have been impossible without the commitment and dedication of your instructors, your mentors and of cause – the support of your proud parents, family members and loved ones. A special word of thank you to all the SAAF members who helped you work through obstacles, while you tenaciously invited the universe to mould you into fine soldiers,” Msimang said.

The SAAF chief explained that when the democratic South African National Defence Force entered into bilateral agreements with the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces to create study opportunities, the SAAF embraced the opportunity with open arms.

“We identified disciplined young men and women to undergo training in Cuba, where they would be immersed in a different culture, social structure, and political landscape. In 2014, we sent twenty-seven candidates to undergo various training specialties in aviation engineering, air traffic control and pilot training fields. They stand before us now: a result of a bond based on shared revolutionary principles,” he said.

“I kept an eagle eye on your developments in Cuba. I was pleased to learn that you turned every challenge into an opportunity for growth. Your results speak for themselves. You received golden awards for both academia and sports. You even experienced the devastating hurricane Irma and used that difficult time to learn major survival skills.

“Additional SAAF students commenced with their aviation training in Cuba in 2018 and 2019. We are expecting more graduates in 2021, 2022 and 2026. Extending the SAAF training scope to various foreign countries will ultimately bring about a generation of differently trained individuals who if nurtured and allowed to plough back their knowledge, will enhance our outlook as part of the global community,” Msimang said.