SAAF helicopters fly over Zwartkop Airforce Base to mark the retirement of the Chief of the SAAF Lt-General Fabian Msimang. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency
SAAF helicopters fly over Zwartkop Airforce Base to mark the retirement of the Chief of the SAAF Lt-General Fabian Msimang. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency

At last, now it’s time for the fakers too...

Time of article published Oct 10, 2020

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Joubert Malherbe

OUR abode in funky Doringkloof is pretty much situated underneath the flight path of the two nearby SAAF airfields.

The other day, I was reclining outside, when a number of military helicopters in formation came flying straight over the house.

They were training for the farewell parade for Lieutenant General Fabian Zimpande Msimang, retired as the Chief of the SA Air Force (SAAF). After making a wide turn, they returned about four times.

The choppers flew very low and made quite a racket but, curiously enough, our two dogs didn’t pay them any mind and continued their afternoon siesta unperturbed. Funny how dogs are about noise hey; even the slightest rumble of distant thunder is enough to put them – the small one, especially – into a tizz.

But they slept soundly as the flying machines came over.

The sight of the ’copters put me in mind of the time when, as a sometime military reporter (late 70s/early 80s), I was among a group of journos who went on a flight aboard one of those huge, newfangled – at the time – Rooivalk helicopters.

We flew up to the north and along the Zim border. The colonel in charge of the excursion briefed the contingent of hacks beforehand and said, matter-of-factly, “we’ll be flying operational, of course”.

It sent a chill down my spine when he said that and I was pretty scared. We landed at a base somewhere in the area in the north where we were shown around and given lunch before we flew back. I was mighty relieved when we landed back at the airbase late that afternoon.

The aircraft last week were not Rooivalks and from my limited knowledge, I’d say they were Alouettes. Whatever, I always think about that striking opening sequence of that movie, Apocalypse Now, with Marlon Brando, whenever I see these killing machines in action.

That excellent, if disturbing, song of the Doors, The End, provides the backdrop as the US helicopters fly low over the remote Vietnamese villages, strafing them with bombs and destroying them.

“I love the smell of napalm in the morning. It smells like victory,” the one US Marine lieutenant – played by Robert Duvall – famously says.

Well, it was really all but victory for the US whose troops had to beat a retreat with their tails between their legs upon the fall of Saigon to the North Vietnamese. That war lasted about 20 years and ended in 1975.

What an event that was, and what a rallying point in the history of the 20th century’s counter-culture. Other than the movie mentioned above, it led to many classic rock songs which shaped the world view of an entire generation.

Well, the chickens sure came home to roost here at home the other day for those senior ANC comrades arrested for alleged fraud and corruption to do with the Free State dairy farm, Bosasa and so on.

How the heroes have fallen, I thought to myself when I pondered the situation. I recalled the lines from that classic song by Van der Graaf Generator, off the Still Life album. On it, frontman Peter Hammill sings: “There's a time for all pilgrims/and a time for the fakers too.”

Yes, the fakers. It’s amazing for how long this looting has been going on… all of it done in the name of “our people”; it’s enough to make one reach for the sick bag.

One can only wonder just how many of them still have, erm, aces up their sleeves…

* RIP the ever smiling guitarist Eddie van Halen... it will be a short Jump to nirvana for you. RIP too, Johnny Nash, who can see clearly now…

Tks for the music.

*Malherbe is a columnist writing for the Pretoria News

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