The SA Air Force (SAAF) Museum is without doubt the most publicly visible component of the airborne arm of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and it has again shot itself in the proverbial foot just days before its main annual fundraiser.
A media briefing on the Museum airshow which takes place on Saturday (May 6), with pride of place going to recently named new officer commanding Lieutenant Colonel Melvin Bruintjies, had to go ahead, 30 minutes late, without him as he was needed elsewhere for “urgent business”.
Much of the subsequent briefing was spent trying to address journalists’ and exhibitors’ concerns over parking as well as the lengthy registration and accreditation process for media, exhibitors and even SANDF members. It was explained that because of people illegally wearing SANDF uniforms, all military personnel have to be accredited.
Given that he is the new man in charge of an asset the SAAF Command Council doesn’t appear to realise the importance of, he had an opportunity to expound the values of the museum, including its revamped displays. By all accounts, these are a major improvement and should be widely publicised to attract as many visitors as possible.
This publication has been trying unsuccessfully – since January – to visit the museum OC at the SAAF’s oldest base and has yet to be told it will happen.
By all accounts this year’s airshow will pass muster but the necessary pizzazz that former officers commanding brought to the event is noticeably – and sadly – lacking.
Bruintjies’ predecessor was a low-profile officer who seldom, if ever, interacted with the media. This is in complete contrast to lieutenant colonels Mike O’Connor and Willie Nel. That they wholeheartedly took on the task of “selling” the SAAF Museum to the wider South African public is evidenced by numerous airshow of the year awards as well as attendance figures of around seventy thousand for the annual Museum airshow.
Sadly, the SAAF has gone from being the Pride of the Nation to an arm of service seemingly content to communicate the absolute minimum when it should be doing the opposite.