Deadline fast approaching for Cuban drug task team report


By the end of this month a ministerial task team is expected to complete its investigation into the purchase of an unregistered Cuban drug to treat COVID-19 patients with results apparently only to be shared with “relevant oversight structures”.

Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister, Kobus Minister, was told in the answer to a Parliamentary question that the final report of the three-man task team “will be shared with the relevant oversight structures in a manner dictated by the nature of the findings and recommendations given some of it relates to the environment of Defence Intelligence, which may be better shared with the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence (JSCI)”.

The apparent illegal acquisition of the Cuban drug Hebron Alfa 2b Interferon at a cost of R260 million for use by soldiers and military medics as a COVID-19 preventive measure raised questions at, among others, the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) and the Public Protector, in addition to Marais. He also registered a case regarding the illegal importation of the drug with the police.

The ministerial response to Marais’ question further states the task team is investigating allegations made in three submissions. They are an anonymous October 2019 report alleging fraud, corruption and misuse of State funds in the Department of Defence (DoD), particularly the SA National Defence Force (SANDF); a submission to the State Capture Commission by retired major generals Sizani and B Ngcobo containing “serious allegations of alleged criminal activity in the environment of the Defence Intelligence Division” and a memorandum from Major General L Ford outlining concerns regarding procurement irregularities by the SANDF in purchasing of Interferon-B from Cuba when “coronavirus reached our shores in March 2020”.

Anticipating the task team report, Marais told defenceWeb there is “at this stage” no indication of when and where the ministerial task team’s report will be tabled “but you can be sure questions will be asked if it’s not forthcoming”.