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Article by Sgt Thomas T. Mulaudzi and photos by WO2 David Nomtshongwana, Cpl Wiko van der Westhuizen and Tumi Kedijang 5asu AFB WKLF.

The newly appointed Chief of the SA Air Force (CAF), Lt Gen “Zakes” Fabian Zimpande Msimang, made history on 28 September 2012, at Air Force Base Swartkop (AFB SWKP) in Valhalla, south of Tshwane, when he accepted command of office from the former Lt Gen Carlo Gagiano.

The event, which marked the dawn of a new era in the South African Air Force (SAAF), was attended by almost 300 guests. Lt Gen Msimang added his name on the roll call as the first African general to become the head of the military institution. Also, he is the 23rd on the list to accept SAAF leadership after the organisation was founded in 1920. He is the initial South African black general after 18 years of freedom in South Africa.

Lt Gen Fabian Zimpande Zakes Msimang, addressing the parade

Addressing the audience at the handing over ceremony, Lt Gen Msimang praised the outgoing chief, Lt Gen Carlo Gagiano and his wife, Leonie, for the work they had done for the Defence Force and the country..

He urged members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), to continue serving the constitutional mandate of the country in order to bring peace and stability in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

The general further said that for the SAAF to achieve its objectives, it requires all serving Public Service Act Personnel (PSAP), Aviation Manpower Group (AMG) and uniformed members to be disciplined, respectful and apply teamwork and render all services with professionalism. He said this would make his job much easier.

The Chief of the SA Navy, Vice Admiral Mudimu, handing over a gift hamper to Lt Gen Gagiano

He said members of the SAAF must change their mindset in order to strengthen the organisation. The general thanked the leadership of the SANDF, particularly the chief of the military organisation, Gen Solly Shoke and the military command council, for showing confidence on him by his new appointment.

Lt Gen Msimang, integrated into the SANDF in 1994 after the first democratic elections as a qualified helicopter pilot. He received his flying training at Frunze 1 Central Officers Training Centre, Kirghizstan, in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics( ex- USSR) from 1986 to 1991.

He also graduated from the same institution with a diploma in Command & Tactics of Military Aviation. During his career, he flew the MI 8, MI 25, Allouette 111, and the Oryx helicopters and further did a factory conversion onto the A109E helicopter at Agusta/Westland in Italy.

He was a member of the Umkhonto We Sizwe (MK), the military wing of the African National Congress. He engaged in combat in Angola in 1986. In 1994, he completed the Air Force Junior Staff Course in Zimbabwe before integrating into the SANDF.

Col Jonathan Ngwenya from the SAAF HQ, entertaining the guests, while Maj Susan Ngcube ululating...

To mark the day as a memorable one, the following aircrafts flew in welcoming and saying goodbye to all the chiefs: the Harvard, the Astra, the PC 12, the Vampire, the F86-Sabre, Mirage 111, the F1CZ, and the Cheeter D & E aircraft, the Hawks and the Gripens, the Agusta helicopters, the Oryx helicopters, the Rooivalk, the Cessna Caravan and C130 aircraft.

Lt Gen Carlo Gagiano was born in Bonnievale settlement, approximately 200 kilometres northwest of Cape Town on 26 March 1951. He matriculated at Clan William High School. And, he joined the SAAF in 1968 and qualified as a pilot on the Impala aircraft in December 1969.

During 1985, he completed the SAAF’s Senior Command and Staff and was subsequently appointed as the Officer Commanding (OC) 3 Squadron, operating the F1CZ. In 1989, he was appointed the OC of 89 Combat Flying School operating the Cheetah D aircraft.

In 1991 to 1994, he served as a military attaché in Israel. He then completed the SANDF Joint Staff Course and upon arrival, was later transferred to Central Flying School, Langebaanweg, as the Officer Commanding.

Lt Gen Msimang handing over the eagle to Lt Gen Gagiano

General Gagiano said that: loyalty, dedication, patriotism, and passion for aviation, sustained him to reach 44 years, six months and 16 days longer in the SAAF.

Some of the highlights of his career were:

a. The opportunities to engage with foreign air forces.
b. Introducing new systems into the SAAF.
c. Observing the competency of the current generation.
d. Engaging with the local Defence Industry, and
e. Establishing the C130 Maintenance and Repair Facility (MRO) at AFB WKLF.

Brig Gen Wiseman Mbambo, Directorate Air Capability & Plans (DACP), also present at the occasion, urged SAAF members to commit themselves and be loyal to the organisation in support of the new leadership.

According to Lt Gen Msimang ‘s father (Mendi), he appealed to members of the SAAF to support the general for him to take the Air Force into greater heights. He expressed happiness for the transformational changes, which according to him, has come at the right time.

Lt Gen Msimang with Mrs Tegogo Khalo

Mrs Tebogo Khalo (Puleng), an actress of Rhythm City soapie in the E News Channel, was pleased to be part of this memorable event. She said that, without the support, the leadership would not be able to achieve their objective.

Also present on the day were the Deputy Min of Defence, Mr Thabang Makwetla, the Secretary of Defence, Dr S.N. Gulube, Chief of the SANDF, General Solly Shoke and Divisional Chiefs of Arms of Services of the SANDF, Foreign Military attaché in South Africa, captains of aviations industry and retired chiefs of the SAAF..

FLTR, Deputy Minister of Defence , Mr Thabang Makwetla and the Secretary of Defence Mr S.N. Gulube


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