South African “tiffies” being shown the way by Cuban military mechanics

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The Cuba/South Africa exchange of military skills has not only seen qualified mechanics from the Caribbean island nation putting their skills to good use locally, but a group of 25 South African military vehicle maintenance and repair students are learning their trade there.

The group left South Africa in 2014 under an agreement between the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and its Cuban counterpart, according to SA Soldier.

The military publication reports the engineering programmes the South Africans are enrolled for take between three and five years to complete and “provide expertise in the maintenance of battle tanks and transporters”.

Drawing, welding, diesel theory and philosophy are among the subjects the South Africans are taught. The first group of South African military mechanics in Cuba are scheduled to finish their studies in July this year with the remainder having two more years to complete their studies.

One of the students told SA Soldier that when they complete their studies and return to South Africa they will be able to fix most army vehicles and “save our defence force much money that can be used on other needs”.

The SA Army “tiffies”, military slang for mechanics, are united in their belief that the expertise they learn in Cuba will go a long way to improving fleet management in particularly the SA Army and ensure vehicles are kept running and operational longer, saving resources.



Close on a hundred Cuban military mechanics and technicians are in South Africa as part of Operation Thusano with the overall aim of repairing more than four thousand Army vehicles. At the same time the Cubans are training and mentoring South African military mechanics.