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SANDF spent R1bn on exchange programme with Cuba

Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. File photo: Nhlanhla Phillips/African News Agency (ANA)

Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. File photo: Nhlanhla Phillips/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jul 8, 2021

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THE South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has spent about R1 billion on a project that has involved employment of Cubans over the past seven years.

The department said it spent R2.6 million on the protection of the Cubans who were in their employ while in the country.

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This was revealed by Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula in response to parliamentary questions from DA MP Nomsa Marchesi, when she asked about Project Thusano.

Marchesi enquired about the number of Cubans employed by the department since 2010, and a plan to employ other specialists in the next three financial years.

She also wanted to know the cost of employing the Cubans, and whether the SANDF took steps to check if the required skills were available in the country.

In her written response, Mapisa-Nqakula said Project Thusano started in February 2015, and that 767 Cuban had worked in South Africa between 2015 and 2020.

Mapisa-Nqakula revealed that the SANDF planned to employ 451 Cubans in the next three years.

The minister said the Cubans had worked in various areas, such as maintenance and repair of vehicles, among others, and would continue doing so.

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They were transferring skills, ranging from servicing aircraft and maintaining medical equipment, among other things, including combat shooting training.

Mapisa-Nqakula said the Cuban specialists were brought in because the hiring of South African companies to provide maintenance and repair services had proved disadvantageous.

“The services are too expensive. The maintenance and repairs provided by these companies take a very long time.

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“The quality of the maintenance and repairs is not good,” the minister added.

Mapisa-Nqakula also said the South African companies were not willing to repair the vehicles for a lower price, and would not transfer skills while doing it.

She would not say how much was spent on salaries of the Cubans, other than R1 068 072 321 on Project Thusano.

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Meanwhile, the SANDF is paying R2.6 million for the protection of the Cubans.

Mapisa-Nqakula also told DA MP Sarel Marais that 21 members formed part of the protection services to the Cuban representatives.

“The current amount spent over six years on VIP protectors; on subsistence and travel allowances, accommodation and food is R 2 683 239.46,” she said.

Political Bureau

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