By Amn Lebogang Ramaboea, AD ASTRA magazine and photos by
WO2 Christo Crous.
The first black Sergeant Major of the South African Air
Force (SMAF) was installed with Ceremonial elegance and
splendor. The Change of Office Parade was held at Air Force
Gymnasium, south of Tshwane, on 15 October 2008. The day
marked the dawn of a new era in the organisation.
WO1 Lefu Daniel Tshabalala the new incumbent brought with
him good ideas when he came into his new office. He stepped
into the shoes of WO1 Stephanus Johan du Preez, who proudly
served the organisation for 41 years.
WO1 Tshabalala was born on 12 November 1957 in
Viljoenskroon, in the Free State. His military career
started in 1977 when he joined the Bophuthatswana Defence
Force. After acquiring army knowledge, he was posted as
chief personnel clerk at the Bophuthatswana Defence
Headquarters Unit. Then, he became the Regimental Sergeant
Major (RSM) of both the HQ Unit and Bophuthatswana Air Force
(BAF) in 1990 and 1992 respectively.
Thereafter, he integrated into the South African Air Force
(SAAF) in 1995. During his stay in the SAAF, he held many
positions including the Sergeant Major of the Inspector
General of the Air Force. September 2004 saw him being in
charge of the Warrant Officers’ Academy. He completed his
Senior Warrant Officers’ Course at the SA Army College in
The diligent WO1 Tshabalala always sought for more
knowledge. An opportunity came in 1996 to study abroad and
he took it with both hands. He attended the Equal
Opportunity and Affirmative Action Course at the Defence
Equal Opportunity Management Institute in Orlando, Florida,
In an interview with AD ASTRA magazine on 15 October 2008,
WO1 Daniel Tshabalala said: “ Today I am the happiest man on
earth, because I have always worked towards achieving this
position. My goal from today is to serve my subordinates,
then my superiors. As the first black SMAF, a lot will be
expected from me and I am up for the challenge”.
He added that his skin must not be the measuring stick for
occupying the office. He said he was looking forward to
working closely with Chief of the Air Force (CAF), Lt Gen
Carlo Gagiano. He praised his predecessor and pointed out
that he would do his utmost to ensure good governance in his
new office. WO1 Tshabalala is a proud husband to Mmafumane.
In his parting address WO1 Johan du Preez said: ”This is
where trust and respect are born between superiors and
subordinates. I enjoyed working with most competent officers
and warrant officers, who helped in the molding of my way
forward. I have experienced the good and sometimes, in a far
lesser way, the not so good. To succeed, you must forget
your personal issues and take ownership of our Air Force
WO1 Juan Carlos Perez represented the Argentinean Air Force
(AAF) at the inauguration ceremony. In an interview with AD
ASTRA magazine, WO1 Manuel Rubidlos from the Spanish Air
Force (SAF) said: “ It’s a great honor to come and represent
my country here, when the SA Air Force inaugurates the first
black person as its SMAF”. He noted that after speaking to
the new SMAF he was overwhelmed with the sense that the
perfect person had been selected.
CAF, Lt Gen C Gagiano said: “The task of the SMAF is surely
one of the most vital and difficult in the SAAF. He has to
be a father figure for all Warrant Officers and subordinates
in other ranks. In short, he is the guardian of the image of
the Air Force. The successor of WO1 du Preez will indeed
have a difficult task if they are to equal his achievements.
I wish him and his wife Elize a happy retirement, together
to enjoy wonderful times of which his official commitments
had deprived him in the past”.
Outstanding members have passed through his capable hands
and judging from the farewell gifts he got, it is quite
clear that he was much loved. That goes to show that the
clothes and manners do not make the man, but when he is
made, they greatly improve his appearance.