Kimberley: the birthplace of South African military aviation
Author: WO2 Alan Taylor, SAAF Museum historian
At Alexandersfontein, just outside Kimberley’s city centre and adjacent to the local airport stands a simple corrugated building.
Few realise that the building is a reconstruction of an early 1900s aircraft hangar and that the site is where our first military pilots received their basic flying training.
Inside the building is an exact full-size replica of an aircraft known as the Paterson Biplane no. 2 – the aircraft used 108 years ago to train those men and Africa’s first qualified female pilot, Ann Maria Bocciarelli.
Embracing Our Collective Heritage: Attaining Excellence through effective education
Author: Major Ntokozo Ntshangase, SAAF Museum; Photos:
In pursuit of social justice and self-determination, is it generally expected that “nothing is achieved without toil". The struggle against dehumanization and degradation of black South Africans at the hands of colonial apartheid ignited a fierce determination amongst many youngsters of the 1970s to equip and prepare themselves for the unknown future. “Those who complete the course will do so only because they do not, as fatigue sets in, convince themselves that the road ahead is still too long, the inclines too steep, the loneliness impossible to bear and the prize itself of doubtful value" - Thabo Mbeki. On foreign lands, confined in various camps and where fatigue was not an option, they remained true to the course.
As the country and its heritage sites continue to celebrate the living heritage and pride of the nation, the SAAF Museum, in line with its endeavours to present a Collective Military Aviation Heritage, reflects and celebrates the selfless contributions of Major General (ret) Happy Bhembe.
Born in 1957, two years after the adoption of the People’s Freedom Charter in Kliptown, Happy Andries Bhembe is a South Western Township (Soweto) boy but mostly an African son by birth and ideological conviction. Like many others, the household’s dominant narratives informed his ideological direction. It was no coincidence that during his matriculation at Musi High, Pimville in 1976, he crossed the borders and temporarily settled in Swaziland as a Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) and later the Azanian People’s Liberation Army (APLA).
Embracing Our Collective Heritage: The SAAF’s First Black Fighter Pilot
Author: Major Ntokozo Ntshangase, SAAF Museum; Photos: Maj Gen Tsoku Khumalo
When uncertainties and doubts preoccupied every other conversation about whether or not former adversaries could coexist, others took to the skies to rewrite history and to profess that “no human is limited". The common denominator amongst almost all the 1970s youngsters who later became prominent public figures and military commanders was the inescapable brutality of the apartheid security forces as well as their desire to live in a democratic society. These youngsters, teenagers and their households knew neither any privacy nor human dignity. They witnessed their parents being constantly harassed and dragged into “Kwelakwela".
Major General Tsoku Mooipati Khumalo was born on 26 August 1964, in Orlando West, Soweto. He completed his elementary education at Mzamo Junior Secondary School in Newcastle and later moved to Matseke High School in Orlando West. As a teenager and unlike many who claim struggle credentials even before they were forced into exile, he did what every other youngster enjoyed doing. “I got involved with every nonsensical things that young boys get entangled in", he recalled. He played around the streets of Soweto, took a train to the Johannesburg CBD, tried to avoid pavements as directed by the city laws and stood his ground when white children insulted him. The strong hand of the apartheid government forced his parents to shield him from political involvement.
The SAAF’s First Black Squadron Commander
Author: Major Ntokozo Ntshangase, SAAF Museum; Photos 5 ASU
South African history books would most probably recognise the youth of 1976 and their gallant activities as having been the generation that heeded the words of Frantz Fanon when he called on each generation to “...., discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it, in relative opacity”. Under situations not of their own choosing, they embraced the task at hand and went to work.”
Writing for the Ad Astra, the official SA Air Force magazine in 2007, the late Lt Col Solomon Kotane described the situation under which that generation was first introduced to the world. “They were born and grew up under the shadow of the tumultuous infernos and infectious uprisings that covered the entire country in the 1970s and beyond where thousands of young black men, women and children perished. However, out of the carnage that characterised South Africa then, new young leaders of the struggle for freedom and human rights were catapulted onto the scene. That moment ushered in the beginning of democracy in the country".
The Transall C-160Z: an aircraft for all seasons
Profile by Amn Mamoshadi Ledwaba and Amn Mamogobo Mamabolo; Corp Com, AFB Swartkop
The Transall C-160 was a medium-haul all-weather military transport designed and built by two European nations namely, France and Germany. The aircraft was designed with the aim of replacing the Nord Noratlas – an aircraft which was employed for fleet transport in France and Germany.
The prototype Transall’s construction was initiated in 1960 and was shared among the main aircraft companies known as Hamburger Flugzeugbau, Nord Aviation and Weser Flugzeugbau. It was powered by two British Rolls-Royce Tyne turboprop engines On 25 February 1963 the first Transall was flown at the Nord plant in France.
SA Post Office reveals SA Air Force collective heritage postage stamps
Author: Lieutenant Colonel S Schultz and photographs by Sergeant Jele, 5ASU
Marathon research, consultation and presentations on what would become the SAAF’s historic postage stamp series for the year 2020 was finally concluded and presented to the Chief of Air Force, Lieutenant General Fabian Zimpande Msimang. The ceremony was a culmination of over sixteen months’ collaboration between the SA Postal Service's Philatelic Services and the SA Air Force Museum, who had been requested to assist in this endeavour.
The Preview of the postage stamps was presented to CAF by the Acting Officer Commanding SA Air Force Museum, Major Ntokozo Ntshangase on Friday, 25 September 2020 at the SA Air Force College in Thaba Tshwane, and contained the exact laser prints of the postage stamp sheet and two First Day of Issue Cover envelopes.