Address by Lieutenant General Fabian ‘Zakes’ Msimang at the opening of the South African Air Force (SAAF) Museum at Air Force Base Swartkop on 7 September 2019.
It is with great pleasure that I open the SAAF Museum Air Show during this Heritage Month. I would first like to extend a big thank you to you all for your presence.
One of the fundamental elements in nation-building and cultivating a cohesive society, is the reconfiguration of the heritage landscape to ensure that it reflects the diversity and the incredible efforts of the unity of our society.
Our interventions are guided by the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, the supreme law of the land, whose preamble partly reads as follows: “We, the people of South Africa, Recognise the injustices of our past; Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land; Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.”
In line with these constitutional imperatives, the SAAF is committed to the preservation and promotion of our Air Force heritage.
Let us take a moment to remember and analyse the father of Zimbabwean liberation, Tata Robert Mugabe on his passing away. Some may hold various views on him, but again this is all part of our African heritage – in its entirety.
Let us take a moment to also reflect upon the rise of femicide in our country and ask ourselves as parents how are we raising our sons. What example are we setting in our homes. Where are we going wrong? A brave man treats women with respect and appreciation. A coward abuses women emotionally and physically. I do hope that no SAAF member will ever stoop that low, if anything I expect us to be more conscious and exemplary. I call upon the men and boys of our motherland to be human, to find Ubuntu, to show compassion for the girls, for the sisters, friends, mothers and grannies. Please let us do better as a nation. Let us not squander the fruits of our hard earned liberation.
The purpose of the Museum Air Show is primarily to celebrate our collective heritage, as well as a build up towards the Aerospace and Defence Expo in September 2020.
The history of the South African Air Force goes back to 1920, and our democratic and all-inclusive Air Force is 25 years old. So, next year we will be recognising the centennial history of the SAAF, through a post apartheid outlook. The theme of the SAAF on the 1st of February 2020 shall be “100 years of Air Power, through 25 years of Democracy”.
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 roots of our collective story spread far wider and much deeper than we can imagine. We all have an obligation to better understand ourselves and each other if our nation is to heal. We have to embrace and be accountable for our collective heritage, if our children are to be more forgiving, more understanding and compassionate.
A maturing democratic nation should not embellish the truth of its past. A true reflection of our history shall make us understand the mistakes and violations we have made. Yes, it can make us uncomfortable, but the discomfort is meant to make us learn, grow and help us mature. The discomfort is meant to help us begin to respond with integrity to the causes of poverty, femicide, crime, grime and greed, to be able to look holistically at the main challenges that face us.
We have to be at ease speaking about our history of suffering and victory. Our history of fear and faith. Our history of triumph against all odds. Our history of a desired deep sense of unity in the face of deliberate divisions.
It is in the ability to embrace and to celebrate our collective heritage where the power of real patriotism lies. To speak of collective heritage is indeed an act of patriotism.
So compatriots, as you enjoy the air show today, please do make time to visit our modest museum. It is yours to learn from, it is yours to reflect upon and also please do make further suggestions on how our museum can be one of the best military museums in the southern hemisphere.
We all have an obligation to foster social cohesion, nation-building and economic development as an engaged and committed citizenry. Let us stop complaining, let us turn the litany of excuses into nation-building results. This is our country. This is your Air Force – “An Air Force that Inspires Confidence”.
Have a fantastic day – the weather a bit chilly for now. The children look happy. As always, under-18s enjoyed free entrance – which makes this the perfect day out for aviation enthusiasts and families alike.
Thank you all and be blessed. Wishing you all a Heritage Month of self-reflection and self-awareness and your best contribution to our nation-building efforts.