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 Gen Msimang and Mrs Msimang

Members of the Interim Defence Service Commission

Members of the Defence Review Committee

Members of the Plenary Defence Staff Council

Members of the Military Command

Generals and Flag Officers


Ladies and Gentlemen

After 44 years, 6 months and 16 days service in the South African Air Force my time has come to hand over command of the South African Air Force to Lt Gen Msimang. I dedicated my life to the Air Force and if I were once again 17 years old today I would not make any other decision but to become a fighter pilot.

When I joined the Air Force in 1968 man has not landed on the moon yet. There was no TV in South Africa. Computers were as large as warehouses. There were no cell phones. My first salary was R 85.00 per month of which R34.11 was deducted but I still managed to save R20.00 per month.

Flying was a passion and an absolute enjoyment. Camaraderie was the bond and the friends of those days are still friends today. No one can ask for a better career than I have had, considering all the opportunities offered to me, command appointments given me, and all of these culminating in being appointed Chief of the South African Air Force.

Highlights of my term in office were the opportunities to engage with foreign air forces, introducing new systems into the Air Force and to observe how competent the current generation is. Flying the PC 12 during the last few years with junior officers was such an enjoyment.

Engaging and working side by side with the local Defence Industry and establishing the C 130 Maintenance and Repair Facility at Air Force Base Waterkloof was another. An activity particularly close to my heart was Project Sinothando, a project to assist Air Force parents with disabled children. I have to confess that my annual golf day to raise funds for Project Sinothando was not easy owing to the standard of my golf.

There are so many people to thank. However it did not take me more than one second to decide that I should start with Leonie my wife of 38 years. She was my rudder and stabiliser.

Through 16 transfers she resigned her posts, packed our belongings just to start all over again at our new assignment. Not many wives will make breakfast at three o’clock in the morning before an early takeoff. Thank you Leonie for your love, support and care over all these years.

After 4 124 flying hours there are so many people to thank. I must thank my commanders, instructors, wingmen and my technicians who ensured that my aircraft were always in a safe condition to fly. But then also those disciplined airmen in the background such as the air traffic controllers, chefs, protection personnel and all of them who ensures that the Air Force functions optimally.

Without my office staff I would have been a nobody. My personal staff officer Col Mariette Hartley, your attention to detail is unparalleled. My secretary Ewouda, your patience still amazes me. My personal assistant Lt Musi Mtswene what a wonderful person to work with. Our office administration clerk Flight Sergeant Johannes Phiri always ensuring that all the administration is up to date and finally Flight Sergeant Muggels my protector who was at my side whether early or late.

I need to thank all my superiors who created opportunities to command, to serve my country abroad and finally to bestow on me the honour to serve my country as Chief of the Air Force.

Also allow me to thank Brig Gen John Bayne and everybody who assisted him to make this parade special for Lt Gen Msimang and me. Thank you to all on parade, I am proud of you.

Now we enter yet another new chapter in the history of the South African Air Force with the assumption of command of the Air Force by Lt Gen Msimang. He and I have had ample time to discuss the detail of the task. Today is just the symbolic handover of the baton in the Air Force’s relay race.

Today he takes over the race, fresh and with new ideas and vigour. We all must embrace and support him and his wife Africa to run this race without any distraction. Zakes congratulations and I wish you well and hope that the time that lies ahead will be very rewarding.

Challenges will remain but I can offer the South African Air force members no better advice for the future than the words of General Douglas Mac Arthur, “Duty, Honor, Country.

Those three hallowed words irreversibly dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be”.

I am the third longest serving Chief of the Air Force and have resigned twice! To quote Mr Mandela “I have now to retire from retirement”. After 44 years 6 months and 16 days I finally retire and this will not be an easy assignment but one that I will take on with new enthusiasm and energy. In the words of Winston Churchill, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”

To conclude allow me to quote a paragraph from the autobiography of Chuck Yeager, the first man to fly faster than the speed of sound.
“The person I am is the sum-total of the life I’ve lived. So, I have deep emotions about the blue Air Force uniform that I wore most of my adult life. The Air Force moulded and trained me, and who I am and whatever I’ve accomplished, I owe to them. They taught me everything I needed to know to do my job. There is no such thing as a natural-born pilot. Whatever my aptitudes or talents, becoming a proficient pilot was hard work, really a lifetime’s learning experience”.

Per Aspera ad Astra