Speech by SAAF Chief at Unisa graduation ceremony


Message by Lt. General Fabian Zakes Msimang, Chief of the South African Air Force, at the University of South Africa graduation ceremony, Tshwane, on 5 December 2019.

Vice-chancellor Makhanya , Professors, Members of Council, Esteemed teaching staff of the University of South Africa, fellow students, friends, ladies and gentlemen, proud parents, family, and friends: how exciting it is to be standing here today to convey our heartfelt thanks to the chancellor, the council of UNISA and most of all to professor Ngwenya for believing in a community that has little control over its time, because it is always about Country first.

As we exchange pleasantries, we are duty-bound to pay tribute to all our brave women and men in uniform who are in the deployment areas and on the home front, serving our People and safeguarding our national interests. May they continue to serve our beautiful Nation and protect our hard earned freedom, we all enjoy today. This is also the time for us to remember our fallen heroes, those who have made the supreme sacrifices in the line of duty. My thoughts also go out with utmost gratitude for the invaluable contributions made by our military veterans — we salute them!

The motto of the University: “In the service of humanity” was carved for us soldiers, it speaks to us and it simply stands for what we are about. So we are privileged to join the ranks of your graduates today.

When we as the AFCC entered into negotiations with professor Ngwenya around late 2016 regarding my team’s military academic qualifications and record, prior learning and challenging availability, it was an honour, as well as an opportunity when he assured us that he will find a suitable programme that would work for us. Our obligation as the SAAF team was to bring vigour to the programme and to prove ourselves academically capable.

The UNISA School of Business Leadership programme experience is about teamwork, camaraderie and working as a unit. As a pilot, I can assure that even the solo flight experience is far from being independent. Without the ground and air crew: such as instructors, air traffic controllers, maintenance crew, meteorologist, and many others, there would be no solo flight. But certain exam based assignments will force you to challenge yourself. So, the programme was indeed an extension of some of our core values, of what can be achieved through discipline and focused determination. There is no amount of innate aptitude that can replace such important values.

We have just landed from Langebaan, where we had our annual wing’s parade today. I will continue to emphasize to my team that all SAAF cadets must first obtain a first degree, because the new crop of leadership has to have the acumen to quantify opportunity costs and integrate it into decision making that maximise return on investments. The digital economy requires a different mind set and quicker turn around time in service delivery. The modern soldier needs the academic intelligence to make sense of the information beyond the obvious.

However, I shall also suggest and emphasize that all academic studies should include subjects of ethics, psychology and accountability as compulsory modules. Intelligence and academic excellence without a moral compass is a dangerous use of resources. Let us prize integrated public servanthood and ethical leadership in both the private and public sectors. Moral standing is as valuable as oxygen, let your academic textbooks place high value on that please.

As we mark the 16 days of activism against Women and Children Abuse, I call on all you men to be exemplary at home, at work and in society. Show up with respect and dignity and discipline as a boyfriend, a partner or a husband. Be chivalrous. If you have committed to be in a monogamous relationship, do so with dignity and respect for yourself and your partner- it is not difficult, it just requires discipline and commitment.

To the men in this auditorium, in fact to all South African men, let us be the candle of hope of a gender sensitive South Africa that nurtures, supports and protect our women and children and loved ones.

In Service of Humanity, let us use our newly acquired skills to find solutions to the scourges of poverty, looting of state resources, illness, unemployment, dysfunctional and myopic leadership, violence, conflicts, cyber crime, climate challenges etc etc. Let us not take our hard earned freedom for granted.

Wishing you all a safe, happy, restful and joyous festive season.

Congrats once more to all of us here and a moment of gratitude to all those who supported us.

I thank you.