Eyebrows were raised in some quarters when an Armscor tender for maintenance and repair of “various military vehicles” was published last week.
One who saw tender ELWS/2022/39 on the defence and security acquisition agency website was Kobus Marais, the outspoken Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow minister for Thandi Modise’s defence and military veterans portfolio.
The tender requirements are for “maintenance and repair of various military vehicles” listing nine different types. They are tow trucks, recovery vehicles, refrigeration trucks, diesel tankers, water tankers, cargo carriers, personnel carrier trucks, firefighting trucks and mobile shower trucks.
“My first reaction was ‘isn’t this what the Cubans are doing?’” Marais told defenceWeb, adding there is both bad and good to be read into the tender.
On the bad side, he said it is simply another component of the disaster that is the South African government’s – and particularly its defence sector’s – “love affair” with the Caribbean Island state.
Turning to the plus side, Marais notes the tender is “probably not all negative”.
In support of his assertion, he said the tender “could be seen” as one step on the road to replacing the Cubans in South Africa under Project Thusano, created by a Cuba/South Africa defence bilateral and in operation since 2015.
“The tender could be interpreted as a way of replacing the Cubans and if so, it is a good move. Armscor is the sole agent of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to acquire goods and services. Taken on face value, the tender seems a good one.”
He maintains the about 140 Cubans placed at a number of military vehicle parks and workshops cannot do the repair and refurbishment work on vehicles and at the same time transfer skills to SA Army Technical Services Corps personnel.
“My information is we will have Cubans in South Africa until the end of next year and they will not be replaced by others. In the medium term this can be interpreted as good because skills needed to keep military trucks in working condition are available locally,” he said, adding original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), the local defence industry, the private sector and the tertiary technical sector were sources to be tapped.
“Looking at the Reserve Force, the skills and abilities are also available there from both the training and actual work points of view.”
The closing date for interested parties to respond to tender ELWS/2022/39 is 28 June.