What’s happening with the Heberon task team?


Concerns have been raised regarding the apparent tardiness in the appointment of a ministerial task team to “establish the facts” behind what appears to be a criminal act in importing an unregistered drug to apparently help prevent soldiers being infected with COVID-19.

Part of the ongoing saga around the approval of Heberon purchases totalling over R260 million is the reported announcement by Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula of a task team. The issue has, to date, come under the oversight microscope of the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) with further input awaited from Auditor-General Tsakani Maluleke, the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) and the medical service of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).

In response to a defenceWeb enquiry, Department of Defence (DoD) head of communications Siphiwe Dlamini said the task team’s composition is “still to be confirmed”. Once confirmed “an announcement shall be made together with the agreed terms of reference for their work (sic).” He added “it will not be long from now because of the urgency of the matter”.

Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentarian Kobus Marais who is leading the charge for accountability in the portfolio committee, said the delay in getting the task team up and running was, on the face of it, a complete contradiction to what Minister Mapisa-Nqakula told the PCDMV.

“As I understood her response last week, the process (of establishing the task team) is complete, but the three named were not vetted by the national defence force but by the State Security Agency (SSA). One has to ask why SSA? This implies the ministerial task team will not report to the PCDMV but to the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence (JSCI) where no defence portfolio committee members have access.”

Marais’ concern is that, as with the majority of JSCI work, the task team investigation and report will not be made public.

“What seems to be going on here correlates with efforts to date to cover up transgressions, provide lame excuses and attempt to shift the blame. It is unacceptable and should be done transparently and honestly,” he told defenceWeb.