Cubans and “Tiffies” thanked for refurbishing SA Army prime mission equipment

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Last year the SA Army, specifically its Technical Service Corps (TSC) and Project Thusano, “amalgamated” to form a Forward Workshop Detachment (FWD) committed to refurbishment of ageing and unserviceable prime mission equipment (PME).

The move and what it achieved saw SA Army Chief, Lieutenant General Lawrence Mbatha, host “an appreciation ceremony” in Bloemfontein for all involved on 26 October.

The three-star told the ceremony what was achieved by the light workshop troops and Cuban technicians in overhauling PME, including “obsolete” Casspirs, Mambas and Samil 50s, will “go a long way” to raising the combat readiness state of the landward force. Reporting on the Bloemfontein event, with the venue seemingly selected for its proximity to the De Brug training area and facilities including the Department of Defence (DoD) Mobilisation Centre, SA Army Corporate Communication has it “the need to have PME which is fit for purpose and a fleet of vehicles that can transport the members in absolute comfort was paramount”. This, along with an “exacerbated” fiscal position, was a “significant” obstacle for day-to-day operations in the largest component of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).

“The Technical Service members have made great strides, accomplishing many tasks, and overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds when they embarked on this massive project of resuscitating this PME. By fusing their technical skills with that of their counterparts from the Republic of Cuba, a tangible measurable difference was made in the South African military landscape, particularly the SA Army which is the principal landward warfare force in the continent,” was how uniformed public relations personnel reported on work done by the FWD.

They report Mbatha telling those present the refurbishment project “saved the State millions if not billions of Rand in resuscitating our PME”. This after reporting the workshops of various SA Army units were resembling a graveyard with a fleet of “unserviceable and obsolete” vehicles.

Project Thusano is a working component in terms of a military co-operation agreement entered into between Cuba and South Africa signed in 2012 and subsequently extended to January 2025. It was initially only for Cuban assistance in repairing and refurbishing SA Army vehicles and then expanded to include driving simulators, maintenance and repair of aviation equipment and armaments for the SA Air Force (SAAF), medical equipment for the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) and provision of training and senior staff courses for South African military students in Cuba. Total spend on Project Thusano over its 13 year life is estimated to be more than R2.6 billion. By 2021, it was reported more than 11 000 vehicles were repaired by Cubans under Project Thusano.