SAAF 95 not exactly top of mind


With just five months left to commemorate the 95th anniversary of the SA Air Force there is not much visible evidence of celebration apart from what appears to be a partially finished history wall display at AFB Ysterplaat.

The anniversary was launched at the SAAF Prestige Awards function, held the day before the annual Air Force Day parade, this year on January 31. Guests received a coffee mug with the SAAF95 logo and to all intents and purposes that is about it as far as the commemoration goes.

The official logo in addition to the 95 also carries the phrase “21 years of democracy”. This was roundly slated by military aviation enthusiasts as being “so not applicable” to the anniversary of one of the world’s oldest air forces. At the same time the feeling among people spoken to by defenceWeb was “by all means mark South Africa’s 21 years of democracy, but keep the air force out of it”.

An instruction was apparently to have gone to SAAF bases across the country to create “history walls” showcasing highlights of each base. In theory this would have seen AFB Makhado show its legacy as the SAAF’s fighter town while AFB Waterkloof would have highlighted its airlift and transport abilities, being the current air transport centre of excellence, as well as some of its past as a fighter base.

The SAAF Museum satellite at AFB Ysterplaat currently has a freestanding display bearing the SAAF 95 logo as well as the SAAF flag and that of MK, Apla and the former national flag, popularly known as “Oranje, Blanje, Blou”. The unit has been built in a manner that suggests it will, at some stage, carry photographs and accompanying text.

The SAAF 95 display has been set up in an area of the museum that used to be the World War II display hall. One of the Mother City’s many military aviation enthusiasts said it now looks like the SAAF did not take part in WW II and “the history books will have to be corrected”.

A retired air force general said while he did not have a problem with a display dedicated to SAAF 95 he was “deeply concerned” about what will happen to the WW II exhibit.
“I am also worried about the Korean War and Smuts exhibits. It appears these are also in the gunsights. Anything prior to 1994 appears to be undesirable,” he said on condition of anonymity.