Cuba, in the form of the Caribbean island nation’s military mechanics and technical personnel, earned over a billion Rand in the seven years Project Thusano has been going.
The project, according to Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, forms part of the implementation of the 2015 Defence Review. Replying to a Parliamentary question posed by Kobus Marais, Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow minister for her portfolio, Mapisa-Nqakula said milestone one of the Review, commissioned by then Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, in 2012 directed the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) “must halt the client (sic) decline of its core capability”.
The Ministerial response continues: “In in this context, the SANDF must develop an integrated technical service capability that will enable the SANDF to self-sustain with regards to maintenance and repair of its prime mission equipment. Project Thusano relates to this and the project and its activities in South Africa commenced in 2014”.
Year on year payments made for Cuban work are R6.1 million (2015), R143.9 million (2016), R170.6 million (2017), R274.6 million (2018), R219.6 million (2019), R252.4 million (2020) and R9.5 million to date for 2021.
Marais called the decision to use Cuban, as opposed to South African, expertise in the form of the SA Army Technical Services Corps (TSC) “inexplicable”.
“Why does government outsource defence maintenance work at the expense of the local defence industry, where many find themselves in a death spiral and job losses, in all sectors of economic activity, are an ever present concern,” he asked.
“The billion Rand plus spend to Cuba by the Department of Defence and Military Veterans (DoDMV) is just one of many instances where government splurged scant taxpayer money on services available locally,” he said, adding it was “high time” South Africa has “a genuine national conversation on how government is using taxpayer funding to bankroll an ideological friendship” with the Caribbean country.
This in reference to the Ministerial call during her budget vote in the National Assembly last week. She asked parliamentarians a revamped version of a question previously posed to the country as a whole – “is the House satisfied current resourcing of the national defence force is consistent with the obligations placed on it by the Constitution?”