Lieutenant General Wiseman Simo Mbambo was born on 15 March 1966 in Durban and grew up in Northern KwaZulu-Natal in a small village called Louwsburg (e-Ngoje). He did his primary education at Louwsburg and later attended high school in Hammersdale (Phezulu High School) and Kwa-Mashu (Isibonelo High School). From the age of 17 he was immersed in political activities and in 1984 he left the country to join the ANC’s military wing uMkhonto we-Sizwe (MK).
Mbambo has served at various levels of leadership and staff functions in uMkhonto we-Sizwe. Some of his responsibilities included functions as a Section Commissar, Staff Commander, Directing Staff for military engineering, Aviation Group Commander, etc. In his 37-year military career, Mbambo received military training in Angola, Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union and the United States. He also served as Commander to the first Aviation Group of uMkhonto we Sizwe cadres who trained as pilots and technicians in the Soviet Union from 1987 to 1991.
Mbambo integrated into the SA National Defence Force in 1994 as a qualified Mission Controller with a rank of a Temporal Major. His first assignment was to integrate seven Air Force contingents composed of former MK Air Force Group, the SA Air Force, Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda, and Ciskei (TBVC) Air Wings and the African People’s Liberation Army (APLA) Air Force Group.
He has served in the SA National Defence Force in various posts with diverse command and staff responsibilities.
Preceding his integration, Mbambo underwent a four year programme (1987 – 1991) in Frunze Aviation College and graduated as specialist in Tactical Combat Military Aviation Control, a Bachelor of Arts in Military Science Degree equivalent. In his leadership and command responsibilities within the SA Air Force, Mbambo has been appointed in various roles and responsibilities. In 1998 he was promoted to a Lieutenant Colonel and took his first appointment as the Commander 140 Squadron, responsible for Long Range Mobile Radar Systems operations at Air Force Mobile Deployment Wing.
After completion of his Senior Staff Course, he became a Staff Officer for Airspace Control Planning at the Directorate Air Capability Plans in 2001. He was promoted to a Colonel in 2002 and appointed as Officer Commanding Bushveld Airspace Control Sector (BACS) in charge of airspace sector operations. In 2004 he was promoted to a Brigadier General and appointed as General Officer Commanding Air Force Base Waterkloof. In 2008 he was transferred to the Air Command and appointed as Director Air Capability Plans responsible for Air Force Strategy, Plans and Resource allocation.
In 2013, he was promoted to a Major General and appointed General Officer Commanding Air Command. He was responsible for Air Force Operations until he was staffed as the Deputy Chief of Staff SA National Defence Force in 2017. In his role as Deputy Chief of Staff SANDF he became involved in DOD multilateral functions of defence diplomacy with the United Nations, African Union and the Southern African Development Community. During this period he also represented the Department of Defence in various national security structures.
Mbambo is an academic with several qualifications: BA Mil Science from Frunze – USSR, (1991) a Master’s Degree in Strategic Security Studies from the Air University Alabama in the United States of America – (2004), Diploma in Ministry Studies from Faith International Bible College Lenasia (2008), and a diploma in Aviation Safety Management Systems from the University of Southern California (2012). He is currently studying for his Master’s Degree in Business Leadership (MBL) with the University of South Africa.
Highlights of his career include presentation of papers in several local and international military conferences where he shared his views on different military topics and has published such information on the SA National Defence Force publications.
As the new Chief of the South African Air Force, Mbambo commenced his duties on 1 May 2021 at the South African Air Force Headquarters in Tshwane. He is the second black male to occupy the position of Chief of the Air Force since the dawn of democracy in South Africa. His appointment follows the announcement made recently by His Excellency the President of the Republic of South Africa, Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa. He takes over from former Chief of Air Force, Lieutenant General Zimpande Fabian Msimang, who retired at the end of September 2020. Prior to Mbambo’s appointment, then SAAF Deputy Chief Lieutenant General Mzayifani Buthelezi was acting chief following Msimang’s retirement.
Lieutenant General Mbambo is married to his wife of 24 years of marriage Thokozani Mbambo and they are blessed with four sons who are Pontsho, Sibusiso, Musawenkosi and Manqoba. He has a daughter-in-law Mbali Mbambo, and a grandson named Jordan.