Project Thusano to cost SA close to R3 billion

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When the Cuban/South African defence and military co-operation agreement and its Project Thusano contracts end in three years, the South African taxpayer will have paid over R2.9 billion to the Caribbean Island state.

Justifying the expenditure to Cuba, which started in 2015, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise is on record as saying “South Africa has historical relations with Cuba and nothing will change that”.

Her comment forms part of a written reply to Project Thusano questions posed by the Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow minster for Modise’s portfolio, Kobus Marais.

He wanted to know what the remaining terms of the “two main contracts” entered into under Project Thusano are as well as their monetary value and maturity dates.

“The monetary value spent from the inception of the contract in 2015 until the 2021 financial year was R1 377 122 820.00. The contracts end in January 2025”, Modise’s written response reads in part with the rider, “when the Cuban members go for their vacation in December 2024, they will not return to South Africa”.

Project Thusano and its associated contracts will see a further R1 288 455 688,24 spent in the remaining three years they are in force.

The total spend on Project Thusano for its duration is estimated to be R2 665 578 508,24.

Marais was given short shrift by Modise in response to his asking what the status of the Cuban contracts is in view of the Auditor General having declared the “main contracts and all sub-contracts irregular and wasteful expenditure”.

The Ministerial response reads: “First and foremost the Auditor-General made its finding based on one supplement relating to the acquisition of Heberon and they based themselves on the procurement policies and regulations of the PFMA, it has nothing to do with the entire contract”.

She continues: “This issue is subject to investigation as the matter has been reported and a case lodged in Worcester. To say the contracts are irregular and wasteful expenditure will be deemed sub judice because only one aspect of the supplement is under scrutiny”.

Modise maintains there is no reason to terminate or suspend the contract ending in January 2025 adding the Auditor General’s recommendations need to be debated in Parliament.

Marais responded: “The arrogant and nonchalant brushing away of legislative and regulatory responsibility and accountability is embarrassing and worrying, very worrying”.