Construction of new Durban Air Force Base among Defence Works Formation projects


Construction of Air Force Base Durban at King Shaka International Airport is underway and will see 15 Squadron move there once completed. This is one of the Defence Works Formation’s key projects as it takes over duties from the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure.

This is according to a presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) last week by Defence Works Formation (DWF) commander Major General Joseph Ledwaba. Air Force Base Durban is currently sited on the old Durban International Airport grounds. In 2010, commercial flying relocated to the new King Shaka International.

Other DWF activity in Durban includes the identification of land parcels in Durban North to build member accommodation to support the Air Force, and Naval Base Durban. The latter will be the home of the new inshore patrol vessels being acquired under Project Biro.

Other projects include planning and designing military bases, designing new offices and accommodation within the Thaba Tshwane area and Magazine Hill (part of the Department of Defence Lease Replacement Strategy).

The Defence Works Formation also plans for total facility management of hospitals and depots; kitchen refurbishment projects; air force runway maintenance; and naval dockyard maintenance.

Defence infrastructure functions are planned to be transferred from the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) to the Department of Defence from 1 April 2021. This is as a result of the DPWI’s poor track record on defence projects.

The defence ministry stated that the continued deterioration of Department of Defence (DoD) facilities could result in: the inability of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to provide support to the people in case of infrastructure destruction after natural disasters; the inability of the SANDF to carry out its secondary mandate to support government with infrastructure in post conflict reconstruction and development; and compromise combat readiness.

Infrastructure deterioration could also result in occupational health and safety fatalities and costly litigation; the tarnishing of the DoD’s image; have a negative impact on morale; and escalate leasing costs and wasteful expenditure to the DoD.

As a result, the defence ministry tasked the Chief of the SANDF to re-establish the DoD’s infrastructure capability and transfer infrastructure delivery functions back from the DPWI. The SANDF subsequently established the Defence Works Formation.

At present, in-house capacity is able to execute less complex new construction, including maintenance and repairs to buildings. Complex infrastructure projects and skills transfer to the Defence Works Formation is underway, with assistance from the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) – this is over three years.

At present, more than 890 artisans are available and built environment professionals (architects, engineers, quantity surveyors etc.) are being made available through a memorandum of understanding with the DBSA.

The DWF’s approach is to only outsource work when absolutely necessary if too expensive to establish and maintain its own capacity.

In April 2020 the DWF took over municipal services and will begin refurbishment and capital works projects from April 2021, when planned maintenance activities will also start. The DPWI will complete projects it has already started.

Funding the transfer is an issue, but the DoD and National Treasury are engaging on a “continuous basis on a financial injection”. According to Ledwaba’s presentation, R1.19 billion would be needed for the 2021/22 financial year; R1.139 billion for 2022/23 and R1.12 billion for 2023/24.