On 24 June, the South African Air Force (SAAF) held a memorial service at Air Force Base Waterkloof to pay tribute to three service members who lost their lives when their Cessna Caravan crashed near Lydenburg in Mpumalanga on 17 June.
The three soldiers were remembered as men of honour who had given their lives gallantly in the service of their country, the Department of Defence said. Major Tsepo Malia, Captain Marcelino Wembie and Captain Francois Hugo were part of 41 Squadron based at AFB Waterkloof were participating in an operational training camp when their aircraft crashed.
Lt Gen Zimpande Msimang, in his capacity as the Chief of the SA Air Force, paid tribute to the fallen and said that the SA Air Force would never forget their bravery and would honour their dedication. “They did everything patriots were expected to do for their country. Their memory shall forever live with us”, he said.
Paying his respects and conveying his condolences to the families, the Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Kebby Maphatsoe, said that the three soldiers were on a mission to enhance their skills. He added that they died in the line of duty doing what they loved. “They died ensuring that South African skies remained protected”.
Oupa Mogotlane, speaking on behalf of the families, said that everyone was devastated. He said that their fallen sons had died doing what they loved, “flying”.
In honour of the fallen a moment of silence was observed, wreaths were laid on behalf of the Department of Defence and Military Veterans, the SANDF and the SAAF, after which family members were given an opportunity to light a candle and place roses next to their portraits to honour their memory. The service was followed by a ceremony to receive their mortal remains.