L’Affaire Heberon still ongoing via Parliamentary questions


According to Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise there was “no misrepresentation of facts” around the acquisition of Heberon to prevent military personnel from infection with the COVID-19 virus.

Responding to a Parliamentary question put by Kobus Marais, Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow minister for her portfolio, she indicated the “arrangement to get the medication [Heberon, unregistered as a drug for human use in South Africa] from Cuba came into being when the country was faced with a crisis of COVID-19 and the whole country was in a state of disaster”.

She further informed Marais, consistently the lone public representative still seeking clarity on the Heberon acquisition, findings by the AG (Auditor General) “indicated” her Department of Defence (DoD) did not follow procurement processes. This led to R33.4 million recorded as irregular expenditure.

Unused and possibly expired medication was returned to Cuba in the wake of a court order “which the DoD had to comply with” Marais was told with the Ministerial response, adding “there was no misrepresentation of facts on the matter, the DoD had always recorded the irregularity in the financial records as irregular expenditure”.

He was also informed in the written Ministerial response the “irregular expenditure” incurred with the purchase of Heberon from the Caribbean island state will be treated “as per the irregular expenditure framework prescribed by National Treasury”.

Modise did not supply further information requested by Marais, who laid charges with the SA Police Service (SAPS) in connection with the Heberon acquisition including smuggling. Her response states “there are no further relevant details surrounding the matter”. This to answer Marais wanting to know when “the outstanding R33.4 million” [due to Cuba] will be authorised and subtracted from Project Thusano payments “government makes to Cuba”. If not, he asked President Cyril Ramaphosa’s selection to oversee the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), when the South African payment, said to be in excess of R250 million, will be “recovered” from the Cuban government.

Unhappy with what he terms “the cover-up” around and purchase and delivery of Heberon to South Africa, Marais reported it at Worcester police station in June last year. The case number CAS 197/6/2022, assigned to his complaint, was subsequently added to when the AG report on Heberon was made public.

The decision to acquire Heberon, Modise said in response to a Marais question last June, was taken by the “full Military Command Council (MCC)” of the SANDF. He was also told SANDF Chief, General Rudzani Maphwanya, was “instructed to institute consequence management” without going into detail.