ADDRESS BY THE INCOMING CHIEF OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN AIR FORCE

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ADDRESS BY THE INCOMING CHIEF OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN AIR FORCE LT GEN “ZAKES” FABIAN ZIMPANDE MSIMANG AT THE CHANGE OF COMMAND PARADE: AIR FORCE BASE SWARTKOP, TSHWANE, 28 SEPTEMBER 2012.

Programme Director

Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans

Members of the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans

Secretary for Defence

Chief of the South African National Defence Force

Lt General Carlo Gagiano – outgoing Chief of the Air Force

Director General of the Department of Military Veterans

Directors General

Members of the Defence Review

Members of the Interim Defence Force Service Commission

Members of the Plenary Defence Staff Council

Members of the Military Command

Generals, Officers, Warrant Officers, Non Commissioned Officers

Members on the Parade.

Distinguished guests

Members of the media

Ladies and gentlemen

I stand before you as a humble servant of our country. Humbled by the confidence you have shown in me, grateful for the trust you have bestowed upon me, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our forefathers and the veterans of our liberation struggle.

I do so in absolute humility and consciously aware of the enormous responsibilities that come with my new job as the Chief of the South African Airforce. I am duty-bound to embrace and overcome, whatever challenges in line with our democratic constitution, values and the mandate of the Defence Force. There is no room to ask what our country can do for us, for ours is to serve, and if necessary, to die in defence of our country.

I carry with me great appreciation and respect for the guidance I have enjoyed from my leadership. I am particularly indebted to General Shoke, Chief of the South African National Defence Force and members of the Military Command Council as a collective.

It is both an honour and a privilege to take this opportunity to pay tribute to a respected officer and a gentleman, the outgoing Chief of the South African Air Force, Lt Gen Carlo Gagiano.
21 Chiefs of the South African Air Forces have now taken the chief of air force oath. Most have taken the oath amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. A few have spoken the words after the Dawn of our democracy with the rising tides of prosperity.

As we have heard from the reading of the General Gagiano’s CV earlier this afternoon, he has contributed his fair share in developing the air force as he progressed through the ranks, reaching the ultimate pinnacle of an air force career by becoming the 20th Chief of the Air Force.

In his tenure as the Chief of the South African Air Force, Lt Gen Gagiano displayed exceptional leadership and demonstrated that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers. Since 1920 The South African Air Force has had 21 Chiefs and only Sir Pierre van Ryneveld and Maj Gen Barend Viljoen have served longer than Lt Gen Gagiano who has been in command for 7 years and 7 months.

Lt Gen Gagiano’s vision and leadership led him to strive to further good relationship and cooperation with SADC air force formations and several others abroad together with our local Aviation Industry. I want to assure each and every one present here that we will grow and strengthen these strategic relationships.

Lt Gen Gagiano has touched many members and their families through the SAAF Benevolent Fund. It is just amazing to note the huge number of letters of appreciation from people whose lives he has touched and changed.

No comment about the Lt General Gagiano would be complete without paying tribute to Leonie, who has been an integral part of the South African Air Force. She has contributed tremendously to the airforce family through her kindness and compassion, and helping those members who laboured under social challenges. Most importantly, she has always been there to support the Lt General Gagiano throughout his career. We are grateful to her for this and applaud the example she has set.

The theme of this parade as chosen by Gen Gagiano is: The SAAF – Sunset to Sunrise. What did he have in mind?

I think the answer lies in part of the poem titled “Ben Norton” by T.S. Eliot which I wish to share with you and it reads as follows :

Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future,

And time future contained in time past.

If all time is eternally present

All time is unredeemable.

What might have been is an abstraction

Remaining a perpetual possibility

Only in a world of speculation.

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present.

Footfalls echo in the memory

Down the passage which we did not take

Towards the door we never opened”

These words speak to all of us in the SAAF. Those doors will be opened and it should bring hope to chart the future trajectory of transformation to meet the needs of democratic South Africa.

Today the South African Air Force enjoys high respect for its professionalism and competence both within our boarders and far beyond. Being the second oldest air force in the world, at 92 it has also traversed 18 years of Democracy and created a new paradigm for itself to employ its craft in friendship and service.

Our Air Force has since 1994, been an active participant in disaster relief, humanitarian support, search and rescue and in support of government initiatives. General Gagiano, be comforted that the team you have groomed and leave behind will make both you and our nation proud.

Where to from here:

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa states that the “Defence Force must be structure and managed as a disciplined military force”. As a military person, for me, the success of the SAAF will be underpinned by an enforcement of discipline and the concentration on functional, development and physical training. We are going back to basics and I will endeavour to restore the pride and discipline within the SAAF.

The task of transforming our Air Force begins for me NOW! What is this transformation? It is the transformation of attitude and mind-set where it will be expected from each and everyone one of us to perform according to expectation. I know it will not be easy; and I also know that with the support of my staff, commanders and both uniform members and civilians, I will be able to discharge my responsibility in an effective and responsible manner.

The reason why we are the great military outfit lies not in our weapons, or our planes, or our systems. It lies in our people – the men and women in uniform who serve this country with distinction and discipline.

In an ever changing geopolitical, geostrategic and security environment this Air Force must be relevant and prepared to respond effectively and decisively in safeguarding and promoting South Africa’s national interests.

I take over command today at a time when our budget allocation is suboptimal. Our Airpower today must be ready to offer decision makers a wide range of options to be able to execute defence, security and humanitarian objectives. Whilst it is difficult to dispute the niche role that our airpower can play regionally and continentally, the threat of an ever shrinking air force budget, poses a fundamental challenge to keep our airpower competencies relevant.

One of the critical challenges faced by many defence forces throughout the world has been the budget cuts and this has had an impact on the operations of these. As such we are not the only ones suffering this phenomenon such but it is important to highlight the challenges we face as the SANDF as a whole.

We wait in anticipation for the work of the Defence Review to be complete which will assist the defence force with regard to financial matters pertaining to our work. It is my belief that the Defence Review will place the defence force in a better position for us to be able to carry out our mandate as required by the Constitution of the Republic together with the resources required.

General Gagiano and Leone, the SAAF will remain indebted to you for the service you have provided to our country. My wife – Afrika and I wish you both all the best in your retirement.

We thank you for sharing with us your experiences during the three-month period of “handing and taking over”.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one here today, for sharing this special day for the South African Air Force and for my family and I.

To our parents – Baba Mendi and Me Agnes, we thank you so much for your love, wisdom and guidance over the years.

To my beloved and precious wife, you remain my pillar of strength and my shining star. You are a master juggler, who has held the forte, mastered a professional career, mothered numerous children and devoted your time to the members and families of the SAAF. I cherish your bountiful energy, compassion, courage, devotion, tenacity and wisdom. Thank you for shining the light on my dreams, for believing in me. You my love, are every beat of my heart.

To my beloved sons and god children, thank you for your patience and capacity to share me with many others – your love and discipline have made the journey so much lighter. You are such a gift of love. I love you.

My heartfelt appreciation goes to our family, our friends, our colleagues and comrades.

I must make mention of the various instructors, subordinates, well-wishers and all those that I have had the honour of meeting in my career thus far; THANK YOU for being part of my life and influencing my life positively.

To the men and women in blue, I am here to lead you and I am here to serve you..……Let us turn another page into our proud South African Air Force history: with discipline, devotion and a deep sense of camaraderie.

As Tata Mandela says: Discipline is the most powerful weapon to get liberation,” and if I may add, discipline is the most powerful weapon to make our air force a respectable and dependable outfit.

To the leadership and command structure of the South African Air Force, I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. May our passion to serve and our collective wisdom give us the strength to lead this organisation effectively and efficiently. Together we will transform obstacles into opportunities for our people – and give them hope. We have all been entrusted with this honourable task on behalf of our nation to safeguard its airspace.

I therefore pledge here today, to create an environment where our South African Air Force will live by its values in all that we do. The values are:

HUMAN DIGNITY

EXCELLENCE IN ALL WE DO

INTEGRITY

SERVICE BEFORE SELF

Blessings and respect to you all.

I thank you.