Cuban involvement in the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is increasing with officers from the Caribbean island’s military imparting their musketry skills to Infantry School MSD (Military Skills Development) volunteers.
South Africa has a defence co-operation agreement with Cuba and this has seen Cuban military technical personnel working on SA Army and SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) vehicles to ensure the operational status of the SANDF wheeled transport fleet is increased. Cuban technical expertise has also been brought to bear on medical equipment, mostly dental, in the SAMHS, again with a view to improving equipment availability without having to go the acquisition route.
“Cuban automated shooting training” is, according to an SANDF LinkedIn post, given to MSD volunteers undergoing basic military training (BMT) at the SA Army Infantry School in Oudtshoorn. The training took place at Port Alfred Gate shooting range under project leader Lieutenant Colonel Z Kaman, Staff Officer Education Training and Development External, ahead of a visit between 22 and 30 October of “senior military delegates”.
“Colonel EOS Morales and Lieutenant LF Moreno outlined the initial concept, process and expected outcomes of the project while Infantry School instructors facilitated different classes. Colonel DM Madie, Officer Commanding Infantry School, indicated his satisfaction with progress thus far and encouraged learners to keep practicing to perfect the skills offered by this particular training,” according to the post.
Cuban military doctors stood side by side with their SAMHS colleagues as well as doctors and other medical personnel from national and provincial departments of health on the front lines of coronavirus combat at the height of the national state of disaster. The Cuban military medical personnel were welcomed on their arrival in South Africa at AFB Waterkloof by Defence and Military Veterans Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
In September, ahead of his retirement, outgoing SA Air Force (SAAF) Chief, Lieutenant General Zakes Msimang, commissioned 27 South African candidate officers following successful completion of various courses in Cuba. The newly minted officers were training in air traffic control as well as different engineering and technical disciplines.
Project Thusano has been underway since 2015 when the first batch of Cuban military mechanics and fitters arrived in Thaba Tshwane. They have been part of repair and maintenance to operational status of around two thousand vehicles, mostly combat, with dedicated logistics vehicles also benefitting from their mechanical skills.