Cuban expertise sees over ten thousand military vehicles serviceable again


The professional and technical services provided to all four SA National Defence Force (SANDF) arms of service by Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces personnel has, among others, seen over R277 million spent on repairing and preserving military vehicles, Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) heard.

The total number of vehicles involved is 10 673, Brigadier-General BG Mtsweni of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Logistics Division’s SA Forces Institute (SAFI) outlined in a presentation to the committee earlier this week. His presentation did not give dates, but presumably covers the 10 year life to date of the Cuba/South African defence bilateral agreement.

Maintenance, repair and refurbishment of military vehicles was one of the first outcomes of the bilateral. Under Project Thusano, a name seemingly adopted by the SANDF and Minister Thandi Modise’s Department of Defence (DoD) to cover all Cuban/South African defence related undertakings, Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces specialist personnel were deployed at vehicle parks and military workshops sited at, among others, Potchefstroom and Wallmannsthal. Their duties included mentoring SA Army Technical Services Corps (TSC) personnel.

Mtsweni’s presentation has it the Cuban connection was part and parcel of “preserving” 1 023 military vehicles and bringing another 9 720 back to serviceability.

Seven thousand seven hundred and fifty-one SA Army vehicles, ranging from Samil trucks through to Mamba personnel carriers, Mfezi ambulances and recovery units are now, according to the presentation, in usable condition.

The SA Navy (SAN) vehicle fleet’s availability is 1 049 better off thanks to the intervention of Cuban military mechanics alongside diesel, electrical and hydraulic specialists. The SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) fleet is 700 more and Special Forces finds itself with 106 serviceable vehicles added to its vehicle numbers. The SA Air Force (SAAF) has 44 more serviceable vehicles thanks to Cuban intervention.

All told, work done on preserving and bringing vehicles back to usable level saw expenditure of R277 625 161.40.

The Cuban contingent was active at any number of SAAF bases and facilities involved in over 19 800 “works”. These include 129 unspecified major and 2 172 light repairs, 440 “support activities to periodic aircraft maintenance”, repair of 52 test benches, 3 800 plus circuit inspections, 5 488 “trainings in testing and repairs”, “85 completed aircrafts” and “maintenance and preservation of 243 aviation bombs”.

The Cuban medical brigade, brought to South Africa as part of the national effort to combat the spread of COVID-19, along with other Cuban military doctors and medical personnel in South Africa were involved in treatment and care of just short of nineteen thousand patients. Procedures performed ranged from taking blood, resuscitation, PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests, administering drugs, “vein channelling” and processing laboratory studies to “nursing procedures” as well as bathing and feeding patients.