SAAF looks to celebrate centenary next year through 25 years of democracy


The South African Air Force (SAAF) is planning on hosting a number of activities during 2020 to celebrate the official founding of what is commonly referred to as the second oldest Commonwealth air force.

Speaking at the opening of the SAAF Museum Air Show at Air Force Base (AFB) Swartkop on 7 September, Air Force chief Lieutenant General Fabian Msimang noted that the air show was being held during Heritage Month.

“One of the fundamental elements in nation-building and cultivating a cohesive society,” Msimang explained, “is the reconfiguration of the heritage landscape to ensure that it reflects the diversity and the incredible efforts of the unity of our society. The SAAF is committed to the preservation and promotion of our Air Force heritage.”

“Beyond the display of our air power and expertise, what marks this event today is the need to begin to embrace our collective history with an element of sincerity and compassion. For a very long time, the SAAF history has been one dimensional, told from the perspective of our erstwhile predecessors. Such an approach of our history has managed to diminish and undermine the cold weight of oppression and humiliation that was felt by the majority.”

The purpose of the 2019 Museum air show, he said, is primarily to celebrate South Africa’s collective heritage, as well as a build up towards the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition in September 2020. Whilst the history of the South African Air Force dates back to 1920, the democratic and all-inclusive Air Force is only 25 years old.

“So, next year we will be recognising the centennial history of the SAAF, through a post-apartheid outlook,” he noted. Thus, “the theme of the SAAF on the 1st of February 2020 shall be ‘100 years of Air Power, through 25 years of Democracy’”.

Whilst the main Centenary celebrations will be held at the AAD public air show days in September next year, commemorations will kick off at the Air Force Prestige Day in February 2020 as the SAAF was officially founded on 1 February 1920.

The Chief of the SAAF told the author a team has been put together to map out a host of activities. This will include a detailed aviation history of APLA and MK, with the team reporting back in a month’s time.