Matters Cuban, especially as regards the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), appear to be reaching breaking point with an ultimatum delivered to the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans and the Secretary for Defence.
Not surprisingly, the ultimatum comes from the Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentarian tasked with keeping a watchful eye on Minister Thandi Modise’s department, which includes Armscor and the national defence force as well as other entities.
Kobus Marais maintains the proverbial straw which broke the camel’s back was the revelation that apart from a currently on-hold R50 million government donation of food to the Caribbean Island state, part of an apparently bigger R350 million donation and “more than R147 million loaned since 2018”.
Taking this alongside what he terms “the disaster that is Operation Thusano” Marais wants action taken against all Department of Defence (DoD) officials and SANDF personnel, including senior officers at the level of force and service commanders to be criminally charged.
His call to Minister Modise and Secretary for Defence (SecDef) Gladys Kudjoe is for criminal charges to be laid against all officials implicated in “malfeasance” regarding Operation Thusano by Friday, 27 May. “Should the Minister fail to act by that date we (the DA) will ourselves lay criminal charges,” he said.
Operation Thusano is, according to Marais, “an agreement with Cuba that has seen payments to the tune of total of R1.4 billion made to the Caribbean nation by the DoD”.
“A report by the Auditor-General (Tsakani Maluleke) indicates all expenditure under Operation Thusano since 2015 – when the project commenced – until December 2021 has been irregular, with no procurement procedures followed or deviations obtained prior to entering into supplementary agreements.
“It was under the guise of Operation Thusano the SANDF irregularly procured Interferon (Heberon Alpha-2B) from Cuba at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic at a cost of $20 million, of which $2 million was irregularly paid. Luckily the malfeasance came to light before a further $5.270 million was wasted on a drug the SANDF failed to clear, register with the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) as a COVID-prophylactic or obtain import authorisation for.
“From the AG’s report alone it is clear Operation Thusano should be cancelled with immediate effect.
“The SANDF cannot afford the further R1.2 billion Cuba is expected to make from Thusano. It is becoming clearer every day the SANDF is captured and money is seemingly being laundered to Cuba under the guise of contracts for technical services and educational purposes.
“The SANDF is a broken entity unable to fulfil its core purpose – protection of South African citizens. Earlier this year it was revealed a majority of the equipment procured under the dodgy arms deal is not serviceable. Additionally the country’s military capabilities have deteriorated to the point where we would be unable to launch a meaningful defence should the situation arise.
“It now seems it’s not that SANDF does not have the necessary funds to rectify the situation, but its loyalty lies with its Cuban comrades and not the South African public,” Marais said.