A 43-year-old fighter pilot in the South African Air Force, Brigadier General Lancelot Mathebula, has become the first Black South African to be the commander of the Air Force Base outside Louis Trichardt in Limpopo.
Air Force Base Louis Trichardt is home to the advanced fighter jet, the Gripen. General Mathebula joined the Air Force in 2000. He has been a pilot flying the Hawk trainer aircraft.
Mathebula has been commanding the base since April but was officially handed the baton today.
“I have been in command for the last nine months, it has been a long hard couple of months but it is very refreshing that if you have the stuff like the stuff we have at the Air Force Base Makhado and the support are to make sure that we can keep the culpability. As a pilot we just do remember we are soldiers first before anything else, so soldiers get command and we continue but to lead the aircraft that I was flying in the past is clearly an honour,” says Mathebula.
Outgoing commander, Brigadier General Russels Barands believes that General Mathebula is a capable man.
“Soldiers at Air Force Makhado are very professional, and with the leadership of General Mathebula, who was my air wing coordinator and now brigadier general, without this type of leadership we would not have completed this achievement that we managed to achieve to become a world-class fighter airbase. We are here to defend the sovereignty of South Africa as well as the territorial aspect, therefore, it is important for us as soldiers to make sure that we defend our airspace,” says Barands.
The first Black woman jet fighter pilot to fly the HAWK and the Gripen in the South African Air Force, Major Mandisa Mfeka has welcomed the first Black person to command the Makhado Air Force Base. Major Mfeka has expressed excitement at General Mathebula’s appointment.
“We are very excited to have a fighter pilot take over the button as he will continue the legacy of Air Base Makhado which is the leading fighter base of the country. We are very excited to have the first Black commander come in. We are looking forward to his leadership, he does seem to have the vision that will open new doors and pave the way so we are very excited to see what this trailblazer our general officer commanding General Mathebula will bring forth for us,” says Mfeka.