UPDF delegation calls on SAAF Museum

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A call on the SA Air Force (SAAF) Museum at Air Force Base (AFB) Swartkop was an early stop on the itinerary of a Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) delegation in South Africa on a benchmarking and fact-finding mission of SA National Defence Force (SANDF) museums and military history facilities.

The delegation, headed by UPDF political commissar Major General Henry Masiko, was given an insight into what is today SA Army headquarters on Kgosi Mampuru Street (previously Potgieter Street). The presentation was done by Brigadier General Gerhard Kamffer, who researched at the request of a former army chief, indigenous names to replace regiment and unit names that have apartheid and colonial connotations in the Reserve Force.

At the museum, opposite what was the SAAF Gymnasium in Valhalla, the Ugandans were given an insight into museum operations – administrative, display and information services – among others. Presenters were acting officer commanding Major Ntokozo Ntshangase and resident military historian Warrant Officer Class 2 Alan Taylor.

Ntshangase’s presentation covered the history, governance, structure, management, business strategy and administration of the SAAF Museum, headquartered on the oldest SAAF base with branches at AFB Port Elizabeth (in all probability now renamed AFB Gqeberha) and AFB Ysterplaat in Cape Town. A post on the Museum website has it the acting OC told his high-level visitors it was important to reflect “a comprehensive and balanced interpretation of events” in the process of showing and telling the history of military aviation in South Africa.

He used the museum collective heritage project to illustrate saying it “was initiated to identify and address apparent gaps in presentation of aviation evolution, participation of former non-statutory forces and the absence of these forces’ military artefacts in the displays”.

Masiko’s delegation toured the museum taking in, among others, the “Collective Heritage” hall, hangars and outdoor displays. Taylor used the tour to explain the SAAF Museum “endeavoured to follow best international practices and current trends with regard to the manner in which exhibits and artefacts are presented and how information is conveyed to visitors”.

The role of civilian volunteers was stressed with the emphasis on the skills and enthusiasm they brought to especially restoration projects.

Masiko is reported as saying South Africa was “chosen as the ideal destination due to the richness of the country’s military, historical and existing museum infrastructure”. South African experience and expertise will allow the UPDF to “draw lessons which will determine the establishment of a national military museum in Uganda”.