Air-force shooting due to 'lack of transformation'

The fatal shooting at the South African Air Force College in Thaba Tshwane outside Pretoria on Thursday is an indication of the “outstanding transformation” work still needed in the defence force, the South African Security Forces Union (Sasfu) said on Friday.

“There are still racial divides and, most importantly, there is a big misalignment between the top management and the middle management in the Department of Defence, which is affecting the rank and file,” it said in a statement.

The union was reacting to Thursday’s shooting when an air-force candidate officer allegedly shot two of his instructors, killing one—apparently because he failed his course.

Lieutenant Colonel Authem Dominic Stevens (40), who was the training coordinator at the college, was shot in the chest, arm and leg and died.

Lieutenant Colonel Lesgaak Karan (43), a member of senior directing staff at the officers’ development wing, was in a critical condition in 1Military Hospital after he underwent an operation on Thursday night, after being wounded in the neck, hip and arm.

“While not reducing the recent incident to a racially motivated one, we strongly believe that there are no measures in place to deal with a number of frustrations from the members of the Department of Defence,” Sasfu said.

This was the second incident at an air-force facility this year.

Earlier this year, Colonel Grobbie Grobbelaar, who was based at Kroonstad, died of his injuries after a junior officer shot him.

“Instructors of courses are increasingly being threatened and victimised by course attendees, and even department heads, to ensure that students pass the courses.
This pressure originates from the fact that transformation figures have to be improved,” said Pieter Groenewald, Freedom Front Plus spokesperson on defence.

“Candidate officers have to undergo stringent qualifying tests to be admitted to courses. I am going to ask the minister of defence whether there is a lowering of standards, and if so, he will have to bear the responsibility for it,” he said.

“We are extremely concerned about these incidences of crime and the IFP feels that urgent attention and intervention are needed to secure the safety of air-force officers at bases of training,” the Inkatha Freedom Party said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Department of Defence said a memorial service for Stevens will be held at the Thaba Tshwane Town Hall on Tuesday.—Sapa

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