Cape Town – The Department of Defence and Military Veterans (DDMV) has spent over R1 billion in the past 10 years paying Cuban service providers to maintain and repair its defence equipment under Project Thusano.
This has been revealed in a written reply to a DA parliamentary question.
DA defence spokesperson Kobus Marais said on Friday: ’’With South Africa’s local defence industry caught in a death spiral and job losses an ever present concern, it is inexplicably curious why the ANC government has been outsourcing defence contracts to Cuban companies at the expense of local defence contractors.’’
Last month, Human Settlement, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu had to defend her decision to hire 24 Cuban engineers to help fix leaks and other water problems, including the Vaal River spillage.
ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba condemned the government, saying those who made such a decision had ignored locally trained and unemployed engineers.
Mashaba said in doing so the government has added insult to injury with R400 million already spent on importing Cuban doctors to combat the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa.
Earlier this month, Marais said he had been reliably informed of the SANDF Military Command Council’s refusal to cooperate with Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's office over a R215 million deal to import an unregistered Covid-19 drug from Cuba. The drug was intended for use as a Covid-19 treatment for troops, despite the medication not being registered for use by the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority.
’’The DA will be submitting follow-up questions to ascertain whether there are any steps that the department is taking to ensure that most of its Prime Mission Defence Equipment repair and maintenance budget is spent locally,’’ Marais said.
’’We cannot afford to have the wilful decapitation of our defence industry by shifting the defence equipment maintenance budget offshore.
’’Over the years, our men and women in uniform have watched the force’s operational capabilities decline due to relentless budget cuts. Meanwhile, allocations to defence contractors have remain steady or even increased, confirming that the ANC government will rather subsidise its Cuban friends than build our defence capabilities.
’’This R1 billion spend by the DDMV on Cubans is just but one of the many instances where the government has been splurging scant taxpayer money on services that can be procured locally.
’’The time has come for South Africa to have a genuine national conversation about how the ANC government is forcing taxpayers to bankroll its ideological friendship with Cuba.’’