Sabotage as the cause of Sunday’s fire at Air Force Base (AFB) Waterkloof was unequivocally ruled out by senior communication officers from both the SA Air Force (SAAF) and the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) but doubts remain, especially in the mind of a sitting parliamentarian and former Commando officer.
Pieter Groenewald, Freedom Front Plus (FF+) leader and party spokesman on defence, points out if the fire at the base’s bulk fuel depot was not caused by sabotage, insufficient or not properly applied safety measures had to be responsible. Either way he wants Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise to come clean and tell the country exactly what caused the fire as well as what will be done to prevent future, similar incidents.
“Both possible causes raise questions. If it was spontaneous then safety measures to prevent occurrences like this were either not in place or adhered to,” he said adding sabotage could also not be ruled out.
“Despite denials in this regard one has to wonder, taking the fire that ravaged Parliament into account, if all the necessary security measures were in place and executed.
“An apparent failure to address access control smells of sabotage,” Groenewald said, adding Modise will be on the receiving end of questions regarding the fire which according to Brigadier General Andries Mahapa, DCC (Directorate: Corporate Communication) Director, is being “investigated”. This, in itself, is not standard operating procedure for accidents and incidents in the SANDF. SOP sees a board of inquiry appointed to investigate and provide a comprehensive, written report.
Just two days before the Sunday fire at the SAAF “centre of transport excellence” an Armscor tender seeking bidders to maintain and repair refuelling systems in the air force was published. The announcement does not specify which refuelling systems – bulk or service to individual aircraft – need attention. The tender (EARO/2021/133) closes on 14 February.