Vehicle maintenance of particularly the SA Army’s older Samil trucks has been in the hands of Cuban diesel mechanics for at least three months and if Armscor tenders are anything to go by they are making inroads into the backlog.
No less than four tenders issued by Armscor this month are for parts to be used on Samils. They are driveline sub-assemblies (ESPV/2015/68), air brake components (ESPV/2015/65), electrical components (ESPV/2015/66) and clutch and pressure plates (ESPV/2015/67). The tenders close on July 14 with the exception of the one for sub-assemblies which closes a day later.
Samil trucks were locally manufactured during the arms embargo using Magirus Deutz chassis and engines with the final units built in 1998. They are set to be replaced by new vehicles to be acquired in terms of projects Sepula and Vistula, both of which have been “deferred” according to SA Army Chief, Lieutenant General Vusi Masondo.
There are currently just on a hundred Cuban technicians working on the Samil vehicles at bases including Potchefstroom, Pretoria and Bloemfontein. They are in South Africa on a 12 month contract to refurbish vehicles and assist the SANDF in building capacity in this particular skill, Department of Defence head of communications Siphiwe Dlamini, said in March.
“The SANDF has had numerous problems with vehicles. They get fixed but two to three weeks down the line they are stuck on the road.
“The Cubans are here to assist us fix the vehicles and create capacity in the defence force so we can do the fixing and maintenance ourselves,” he said during a media visit to Potchefstroom in March.