Gabriel Ndabandaba Jr was the son of Professor Gabriel Ndabandaba, the KwaZulu-Natal Minister of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs. Gabriel jr arrived at DHS in 1995, and soon after arriving at DHS, Gabriel became a member of the Natal Youth Orchestra. He had previously played the flute in the Northern Transvaal Youth Orchestra. At school he also took part in athletics, his main event being cross country. He received half colours for both music and athletics.
In 1997, Gabriel joined the South African Air Force’s Silver Falcons team, thus becoming South Africa’s first black aerobatic pilot to join this elite team. Two years later he began training as a pilot instructor at Langebaan.
In January of 1997, Gabriel was a hero, he piloted the helicopter that rescued his father who was stranded for two days in the Drakensberg.
He joined South African Airways in 2004 and was one of the first pilots to fly SAA’s newest Airbus A340 aircraft on the airline’s international routes. He became a first officer, which was just under the rank of captain
SAA spokesperson JJ Thabane described him as “one of our best pilots”.
Gabriel was one of the air force pilots who flew in the fly-past at President Thabo Mbeki’s inauguration.
Other than his love for flying, Ndabandaba was also passionate about chess, listening to classical music and serving as a boxing instructor.
Gabriel, together with fellow aerobatic pilot Johnny “Jet” Hattingh tragically lost their lives during a daredevil aerobatic display at the Vereeniging Airshow in September of 2005. Gabriel was only 26 years old.
Speaking, after attending the African National Congress National Executive Committee meeting in Johannesburg, KwaZulu-Natal Premier S’bu Ndebele said he was “devastated” by the news of Gabriel’s death.
“Our hearts go out to a young person who only had the sky as his limit. He was an inspiration to all of us in the legislature, regardless of whichever political party you come from. Everyone, especially his father, used him as a shining example at every opportunity we got, because he showed our youth that you can become anything you put your mind to,” said Ndebele.
A spokesperson from the Sasol and The Tiger Aerobatic team described Gabriel as an icon, humble, admired, passionate and a true ambassador.
Gabriel was fondly known as “Numzan” which in English means “Sir”. Today I honour Numzan, a fellow DHS Old Boy. We are proud of his achievements and want to share his story of inspiration, bravery, determination and passion. Gabriel Ndabandaba…another true DHS hero.