Project Thusano raises FF leader’s ire

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Freedom Front Plus (FF+) leader Pieter Groenewald will pose further questions to Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise on the Cuban connection with the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).

He maintains the response by Modise “still” does not clarify what the national defence force gained in benefit and value terms from the 11 year plus presence of Cuban military technicians in South Africa. The ministerial response to a parliamentary question posed by Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) Russel Cebekhulu has it the current contracts for the SANDF to utilise Cuban expertise expire in 2025 and will be reviewed with a decision on renewal or termination of sub-contracts.

“Not good enough” is Groenewald’s riposte adding Project Thusano – the joint military agreement between Cuba and South Africa – has been “shrouded in controversy since inception”.  The controversy has its origins, according to him, in the “billions of Rand reportedly paid for so-called maintenance on army vehicles”.

“It is unlikely SANDF vehicles and equipment improved to the extent justified by such high expense,” he said, adding South Africa – as a country – has “more than enough local expertise” to do the work.

On Modise’s contract and sub-contracts review assertion, Groenewald noted it “seems to point to irregularities”, possibly occurring since 2012 and not rectified.

His party will continue “fighting blatant squandering” of taxpayer money on “Cuban welfare projects” while the SANDF is “collapsing”, Groenewald said.

The Project Thusano agreement was signed in 2012 for Cuban military technicians to maintain and repair military prime mission equipment (PME) in South Africa, mainly vehicles. This was subsequently expanded to include driving simulators, maintenance and repair of aviation equipment and armaments for the SA Air Force (SAAF), medical equipment for the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) and provision of training and senior staff courses for South African military students in Cuba.

The initial five year agreement was extended to January 2025. Total spend on Project Thusano for its duration is estimated to be over R2.6 billion.