Pretoria - When President Cyril Ramaphosa took the oath of office to become the country’s sixth democratically-elected Head of State on Saturday, another South African was on her own path to greatness - in the skies.
Major Mandisa Nomcebo Mfeka made history of her own by becoming the first black woman combat fighter pilot in the country.
Mfeka was part of the Hawks formation display during the event. There were other marvellous displays by South African Airways and the South African Air Force (SAAF) co-ordinated flying formations, including a Cobra formation and others.
The display featured a flyover sequence, an exhibition of skill and force which is always an integral part of every presidential inauguration and involving a number of aircraft.
At the presidential inauguration, recognition was also given to SAAF women who were a part of the momentous occasion. She got a roar of approval when she was announced.
Mfeka was born in Ntuzuma in KwaZulu-Natal. She told reporters afterwards she realised her love for aviation when she was just 5 years old. Her grandmother and mother would take her and other children to air shows at the Virginia Airport.
“The first time I realised I could join the SAAF and become a pilot was when I was 16. I was doing research about careers in maths and science and I remember coming across an article by the SAAF.”
From that moment, Mfeka said she knew she wanted to serve the SANDF; she knew she wanted to become an SAAF pilot.
In 2008, she joined the SAAF and was enrolled at Central Flying School in Langebaan, Western Cape, in 2010, going on to get her wings in 2011.
Mfeka said the SAAF was excited to be part of the inauguration of the new president.
“We are very excited; our role is to participate in the flypast to showcase the capability of the SAAF. “In addition, it is a way for us to salute the president, our new commander-in-chief.”
On becoming a combat pilot, Mfeka said: “It has been an amazing experience. This is such a dynamic environment and so mentally stimulating. I love it"
Mfeka joins Second Lieutenant Thokozile Muwamba, who become Zambia’s first female fighter pilot in 2017. At the time, she told the Times of Zambia: “Women should begin to participate and realise their abilities. I look at the fact that when I am in the aeroplane, the aircraft knows no sex”