SANDF facing a Public Protector subpoena for Interferon investigation


Feedback from one of three investigations underway into the acquisition, from Cuba, of an unregistered drug to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the national defence force indicates at present no response from the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).

A senior investigator at the Office of the Public Protector, responding to Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentarian Kobus Marais on the investigation’s progress, said the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) answered an enquiry letter from the Chapter Nine institution as regards its involvement in the acquisition of Heberon.

The shadow defence and military veterans minister was further informed the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), still under the leadership of General Solly Shoke, had not replied to the Public Protector enquiry.

Marais was told: “The SANDF has not responded to date. If it does not respond by Friday (30 April) at the latest, a subpoena will be issued”.

Another investigation into the Heberon acquisition is in the form of a three-person task team named by Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. She said in mid-March Intelligence Director General Zola Ngcakani, former Director General in The Presidency Cassius Lubisi and former National Intelligence Agency (NIA) Director General Billy Masethla, had six months to complete their work, including a report for her.

Marais took up the illegal drug acquisition with the Public Protector days after the Ministerial task team was named. He said at the time “non- and evasive answers offered by senior officers including Surgeon General Lieutenant General Zola Dabula at Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD)” prompted him to ask the Chapter Nine institution to investigate separately from the Mapisa-Nqakula task team.

“You can be sure I will keep in touch with the Public Protector investigator,” he said today (Thursday, 29 April) adding “there has, to date, been no feedback to either of the defence portfolio committees on the Ministerial task team”.

Marais also reported the R260 million plus drug purchase to police, registering a case at Cape Town Police Station which was subsequently transferred to Lyttelton Police Station and then to what he was told was “head office”. He has been visited by a police captain regarding the case and is “hopeful”.

The apparent illegal importing of the unregistered Cuban Interferon drug was an unsatisfactory agenda item for government’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) in February. This was where Marais was on the receiving end of the “non- and evasive answers” from, among others, Surgeon General Zola Dabula, who hands command of the military health service to Major-General Ntshavheni Maphaha at the end of October.