Utilisation of SA Air Force (SAAF) bases is not high, given the current lack of threat against South Africa but they have to be maintained and staffed, causing pressure on an already stretched defence budget.
An example is Air Force Base (AFB) Bloemspruit in Free State, home to the lone SAAF Rooivalk squadron and 87 Helicopter Flying School as well as support units, including base security and air service unit.
The base uses ground facilities of Bram Fisher International Airport, previously Bloemfontein Airport, but has its own hangars, workshops and related facilities, including housing.
Repairs and renovations valued at over R20 million to the sewer system at AFB Bloemspruit are nearing completion and these came under the Parliamentary oversight spotlight this week during a meeting of the Standing Committee on Appropriation.
Four national departments – Defence, Health, National Treasury and Public Works – were scheduled to inform the committee of “challenges experienced” with infrastructure refurbishment and maintenance at defence facilities in Bloemfontein. The only document available to defenceWeb was a report on repairs and renovations to the sewer system at AFB Bloemspruit.
The tender amount for the contract is just over R20 million for 23 months work with an actual completion date of September 21.
In its last annual report the Department of Defence (DoD) indicated it would spend R74.5 million on the day-to-day maintenance of its facilities.
Bloemspruit is the only air force base in Free State with other SAAF bases in Gauteng (AFB Waterkloof and AFB Zwartkop), KwaZulu-Natal (AFB Durban), Eastern Cape (AFS Port Elizabeth), Limpopo (AFB Hoedspruit and AFB Makhado) and Western Cape (AFB Langebaanweg, AFB Overberg and AFB Ysterplaat).
With South Africa currently debating land reform the last DoD annual report said the country’s military had “no plans to close down or downgrade any facilities”. The facilities and land it uses is mostly owned by government with its landlord – the Department of Public Works – being the accounting authority. Some SANDF land is entrusted to it by legal means, an example of which is AFB Ysterplaat.