No progress on SAAF base security upgrade project after three breaches this year


Three publicly known security breaches at SA Air Force (SAAF) bases to date this year and a named and in progress project on the Strategic Capital Acquisition Master Plan (SCAMP) to upgrade protection of air force facilities does not appear to hold any water when it comes to the workings of the Portfolio Committee on Defence.

Project Vagrant was one of the SCAMP items apparently on the agenda for last month’s meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Defence at South African National Defence Force (SANDF) headquarters in Pretoria. This meeting was postponed without a reason. Other items on the agenda, defenceWeb is informed, included Project Assegai (the A-Darter air-to-air missile), Project Drummer (Oryx helicopter upgrade), Project Hoeyfster (the new generation infantry fighting vehicle) and Project Vistula (operational supply support system).

The first and most glaring security breach at a SAAF base occurred when a chartered Airbus A330 carrying wedding guests from India landed at AFB Waterkloof early in May. This incident saw much scurrying, damage control and the appointment of a task team of director-generals from various government departments to investigate. Officers, including two SAAF generals and a lieutenant colonel, as well as officials from other government departments were placed on “special leave”. As far as can be ascertained, the board of inquiry appointed to investigate by the SANDF has not yet released its findings.

The second breach of security also involved the Centurion air force base and happened in July when a light aircraft entered Waterkloof airspace and landed, apparently after the pilot became disoriented. This “airspace violation” and subsequent detention of the pilot and his passengers was trumpeted as an example of improved security at the base following the May unauthorised landing, now widely known as Guptagate.

SANDF Corporate Communications has been in receipt of a request for further information on this and other SAAF base security breaches since the beginning of this month but at the time of publication no response had been received.

Information from a reliable source indicates no charges were laid against the pilot for the “airspace violation” incident. This because he apparently declared his intention to make a precautionary landing at AFB Waterkloof. Again SANDF Corporate Communications has not responded to questions on this matter.

The third security breach occurred in May when a body was discovered in a swimming pool at AFB Makhado in Limpopo. At the time SAAF Communications indicated “it was not a member of the air force”.

Opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister David Maynier said his investigation into Project Vagrant showed “significant delays in decision making” have led to an at least 12 month delay in finalisation.

The former submariner this week again spoke out about the refusal of Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to disclose information about ongoing and proposed acquisitions and projects. He said it was “ludicrous” that she refuses “point blank” to disclose information about project names, items being acquired or budgets for armament acquisition programmes being implemented under SCAMP.

He said there was “a considerable amount of information” in the public domain about a number of defence capital acquisition programmes. These include Project Hoefyster (which defence secretary Dr Sam Gulube expanded on at a public function), Project Saucepan (new maritime patrol and surveillance aircraft) and Project Biro (new offshore patrol vessels).

Mapisa-Nqakula told parliament: “All information requested in terms of SCAMP is considered confidential. Furthermore, all project financial information is considered confidential and not open to the public domain”.