Cape Town – Some of the South African Air Force's (SAAF) planes were stolen and put in museums, which is why there were not enough planes for pilots to get their wings,
"We have a problem," she said in response to a question to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on why SAAF pilots were being sent to Russia and Cuba to train.
"Sometimes these young people train and they run short of flying hours before they can get their wings," explained Mapisa-Nqakula. "We can't give them those flying hours because there are no aircraft," she said.
The minister said that if the government buys them people start "screaming" about buying aircraft. "So you are damned if you do, and damned if you don't," she said.
"I tell you that some of the aircraft were taken by some of the people who left the Air Force and they belong to them in their museum.
"Actually it started ages ago and some of the people stole some of the assets of the people and left with them. So when you talk about shortages it has to do with the fact that some of the assets were stolen," Mapisa-Nqakula said.
Get our planes back
But, in spite of this, none of the SAAF flying schools were closed.
EFF NCOP member, Leigh-Ann Mathys, urged her to go and get them back and said the EFF would support the government in this.
"We must bring our stolen stuff back. If people stole our equipment we must go and get it back. Just like our land."
In January 2005, three people were arrested at the SA National Military History museum in Saxonwold, Johannesburg for being in possession of equipment suspected to be stolen, or used without permission.
They were released after the prosecution declined to proceed.
According to DefenceWeb, in 2005 a Ratel military vehicle was confiscated from the museum on suspicion of being there illegally, but it was handed back last year.