That the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) is doing repair work at Air Force Base (AFB) Durban in the wake of last month’s devastating floods can be seen as reinforcing the base’s continued existence.
The base, on the grounds of what was Durban International Airport, seems set to be the only aviation user of the disused airport until at least 2025. This is as per the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Directorate: Corporate Communication (DCC) in response to a defenceWeb enquiry last September.
“The SAAF suspended movement of AFB Durban, including 15 Squadron, to FALE or King Shaka International Airport (KSIA), for the next five years in order to provide space for other processes to unfold,” was the September response.
Eight months earlier, DCC told defenceWeb the Durban base of the SAAF would take occupancy of new premises at KSIA “around the end of 2025”. This was ascribed to delays resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant state of disaster imposed by government.
A start was made on the new base in 2019 with an environmental impact assessment and landscaping, understood by this publication to be earthworks associated with civil engineering and construction.
The official response at that time was: “The construction timeframe is five years, however, it will be moved to the right with a year due to the lost year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the time schedule, the new base is anticipated to be occupied around the end of 2025 to the beginning of 2026 provided no other external factors impede the construction progress”.
The base was one of numerous ports of call by Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille during a recent fact-finding visit to Durban and surrounds.
“One of the sites we are working at currently is the air force base in Durban. Severe damage was caused to the water and electricity system and the kitchen and hangar was flooded. There was also damage to walls, floors, roofs, gutters, downpipes and cladding.
“Following an assessment by the (built environment) teams, a generator was provided to the military base and water tanks delivered,” a DPWI statement has it.
AFB Durban is one of 33 State-owned buildings and facilities in the flood-ravaged province where repair work on flood damage has either started or is in the pipeline.
“Service providers have been appointed and the DPWI is finalising detailed assessment using internal professionals,” the statement has it.