Lockdown regulations cut SANDF museums visitor numbers


With Heritage Month ending the three known SA National Defence Force (SANDF) museums have, in common with other repositories of history, been hamstrung by COVID-19 lockdown regulations.

The SA Air Force (SAAF) museum, headquartered at AFB Swartkop and with branches in Cape Town (AFB Ysterplaat) and Gqeberha (AFB Port Elizabeth), along with the SA Armour Museum in Bloemfontein and the SA Naval Museum at SA Navy fleet headquarters in Simon’s town are the “official” SANDF keepers of history.

Joining them are the National Museum of Military History on the northern side of the Johannesburg Zoo in sight of the War Memorial and the Castle of Good Hope – South Africa’s oldest building – in Cape Town.

As far as can be ascertained the Naval Museum is the SA Museums Association (SAMA) sole military member. The Simon’s town museum, managed by Commander Leon Steyn, participated in this month’s SAMA national conference earning a “special mention” in the publication design award competition. “We unfortunately were not able to repeat our 2019 win but take comfort from a top five finish among notable museum heavies”.

One responsibility of the SAAF Museum is ensuring gate guards in the form of no longer in service military aircraft are properly maintained. Sadly, this is not the case with the aircraft given this “duty” at what is now Dawid Stuurman International Airport, formerly Port Elizabeth Airport.

Both the Albatross and Impala are not standing proud on plinths and have been grounded since at least April. defenceWeb is informed the museum is “aware” of its Eastern Cape gate guards being “grounded” and that the necessary will be done.

The Armour Museum outside the Free State capital reportedly has staffing issues and personnel from the nearby SA Army Armour Formation’s School of Armour and other Bloemfontein-based armour units do detached duties at the Tempe museum.