Phetogo Molawa
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Lt. Col Phetogo Molawa, South Africa’s first African woman Officer Commanding SA Air Force Station

At the age of 21 years old, Phetogo Molawa became 2nd Lieutenant in the South African Air Force and the first African woman to attain her helicopter licence. Now at the age of 32, Lieutenant Colonel Molawa has made history as the first African woman to be made the Officer Commanding based at the Air Force Station Port Elizabeth.

Lieutenant Colonel Phetogo Molawa of the South African Air Force first made history in 2007 when she became the first African woman to qualify as a helicopter pilot. 11 years later, the helicopter pilot has been made the officer commanding of Air Force station of Port Elizabeth; the first African and the first woman to hold the position.

Lucy Lastic celebrated the news on Twitter of her son handing over to Lt. Col Molawa. She said, “My son handing over command in PE SAAF yesterday to not only the first Black, but the first woman! I’m shocked it didn’t make more media coverage. She’s a great chopper pilot & single mom. Take a bow, Phetogo (‘Pets’) you’re a star.”

In a 2007 interview with Ad Astra, the official magazine of the South African Air Force, Molawa who was then a 2nd Lieutenant said, “I feel it is not only me in the limelight, but all other young women out there, because they also have the ability to make it. I am very excited to be an example of what women can achieve in the SANDF. My achievement in attaining my helicopter licence belongs to all women in South Africa.” At the time, she demonstrated her skills at the opening of the National Conference on Women in Defence and was just 21 years old.

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Phetogo Molawa
Lt.Col Phedogo Molawa marches with a fellow officer who said she’s the best he’s trained, even among men. Photo: Twitter/LucyLastic

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Currently 32 years old, Lt. Col Molawa has written her name in the books of history. Air Force Station Port Elizabeth is co-located and shares the runways with Port Elizabeth Airport. The Air Force Station was downgraded from an Air Force Base in the early 1990’s. The South African Air Force was established in 1920 and has been involved in various wars including World Wars 2 and the Korean War.

South Africa is a country celebrating many firsts achieved by African. After years of systematic oppression through Apartheid, and the its racist laws, black South Africans are quickly getting into positions of power and influence, which were previously reserved only for whites.

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