Air force chief back at work

2011-11-28 11:02

SA air force chief Carlo Gagiano is back at work after Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu rejected his resignation.

Defence spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya said today that Gagiano was “very busy” in Pretoria taking stock of the helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft that would be used to monitor upcoming elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

“The general was ordered to remain at work. His letter of resignation was rejected,” Mabaya said.

Gagiano resigned after taking responsibility for a mishap with a military aircraft that caused Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe to miss a visit to Scandanavia.

“He was informed that the best way of taking responsibility was not to resign, but to remain and sort out the problem.

He accepted that his resignation was rejected.”

Mabaya said Gagiano was coordinating the deployment of the air force in the DRC ahead of elections there.

“We have more than 10 helicopters in the DRC and a number of planes ... The general is working with chief of joint operations to make sure the elections are successful.”

Gagiano was admitted to hospital early in November with symptoms of stress.

He and Secretary of Defence Mpumi Mpofu resigned with immediate effect after a string of incidents at the beleaguered air force’s transportation services.

Sisulu sent Gagiano flowers and wished him a speedy recovery after hearing of his admittance to hospital.

However, she reportedly lost her patience when Mpofu failed to give satisfactory answers over the various debacles. Mpofu was replaced by chief financial officer Mziwonke Dlabantu.

Some of the incidents which have plagued the air force’s reputation include one in which a VIP plane, chartered by it, developed technical problems as it was taking off from the Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria last month.

Motlanthe was on board the plane at the time.

In September, the plane the deputy president was flying on to attend the opening of the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand missed its first landing slot. In 2009, his plane was forced to make an emergency landing while flying back from Libya.

Then there were revelations that two pilots who flew President Jacob Zuma to the US earlier this year had been implicated in a failed 2004 Equatorial Guinea coup.

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