South Africa’s Defence Minister says the entire ministry has only 20 pilots left under its ranks.
Minister of Defence, Mr. Mosiuoa Lekota, says the Air Force has in the past three years lost 91 pilots and 822 technicians.
At present the Air Force has only 20 operational fighter pilots.
He said this while responding to Pieter Groenewald of the Freedom Front Plus in Parliament.
“It is clear that the Air Force is busy collapsing. Apart from the concern about the pilots, the true crisis is the huge number of technicians which have been lost. Without technicians airplanes can not be maintained or flown” Groenewald (MP), chief spokesperson on Defence for the Freedom Front Plus said.
He added that this is the main reasons why the Cheetah fighter jets were phased out 4 years earlier than originally planned.
“This situation makes South Africa vulnerable against other African countries such as Zimbabwe”, he said.
“Minister Lekota acknowledges in his reply that poor salaries and the perception that whites have restricted career opportunities in the Air Force are some of the main reasons as to why members of the Air Force are leaving.
The Freedom Front Plus has warned Lekota since 2005 that affirmative action and a restricted budget will lead to the Air Force collapsing. Lekota is now reaping what he sowed”, Groenewald said.
Of the existing twenty operational pilots, 17 are white men, one is a white woman and two are black men. The Air Force is also currently training 123 trainee-pilots.