Mcetywa new General Officer Commanding SAAF’s Air Command

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Major General Octavia Mcetywa has taken over from Major General Wiseman Mbambo as General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the South African Air Force’s (SAAF’s) Air Command.

Mbambo formally handed over command during a change of command parade at Air Force Base Zwartkop on 1 February.

Mbabmo was appointed General Officer Commanding Air Force Base (AFB) Waterkloof in 2004 before being appointed as Director: Air Force Capability and Plans in 2009 and then GOC Air Force Command in 2013, when he was also promoted to the rank of Major General.

During his handover speech, Mbambo said the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is being impacted by several realities, including sluggish economic growth, high unemployment and a consequent reduction in budgets. This comes at a time of conflict and insecurity in Africa, with millions displaced by conflict and hundreds of thousands dying due to peace and instability. South Africa, in line with African Union and United Nations membership, is committed to respond to crises on the continent. “The SANDF must be adequately resourced to fulfil its mandate,” he said. He called members of the Air Force ‘miracle workers’ for stretching limited budgets.

Noting the concern of shrinking resources, Mbambo said the dwindling budget allocation was something Government had to grapple with under the butter vs guns debate. Nevertheless, he said the SAAF has strived to maintain its speed, height and reach – the main characteristics of air power – in spite of dwindling resources, and has without a doubt displayed agility and adaptability both locally and on external deployments. He said SAAF operations in Burundi, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo show an Air Force that inspires confidence.

For example, the Western Cape in January praised the SAAF for its contribution of Oryx helicopters to fight veld fires there. Meanwhile, late last month SAAF Oryx and Rooivalk helicopters assisted rescuing the occupants of a crashed Mi-24 helicopter in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In spite of a limited budget, SAAF responsibilities are not expected to decrease accordingly. Mbambo noted that the Border Management Agency was approved in December 2016 by Government, which will entail South African National Defence Force participation.

Mbambo takes up a new position as deputy chief of staff of the SANDF. He said during his time as GOC Air Command some of the highlights included the restructuring and transformation of the SAAF, and assisting members serving under tough economic circumstances.

Major General Mcetywa has been GOC Air Command effective 1 January 2017. He was promoted to Major General in 2015 and appointed Chief Director: Policy and Planning at SA Air Force headquarters. In 2014 he was appointed commander of AFB Waterkloof.