Top Cuban general in SA

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The association between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba and the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) continues with the Caribbean island state’s deputy defence minister currently in South Africa as General Rudzani Maphwanya’s guest.

Army General Joaquin Quinta Sola with the additional title of Deputy Minister of the Cuban military which includes air and air defence, ground and naval forces, arrived in South Africa last week and is due to leave tomorrow (Wednesday, 9 November). He and his delegation were invited by SANDF Chief Maphwanya and, according to a media advisory, “deliberated on issues of bilateral and international concern” as well as “exchanging views” on ensuring further “flourishing” of Cuban/SA military relations.

“Relations between the two countries have seen their militaries realising important exchange programmes in the fields of military health, technical services, engineering, advanced/executive security programmes and recent aviation related exchange programmes,” the Defence Corporate Communication (DCC) advisory has it.

Among the issues dominating the Cuba/South Africa military relationship are Project Thusano, due to end in 2025, and the abortive acquisition of the COVID-19 treatment drug Heberon for use by South African military medics and soldiers at the height of the pandemic lockdown.

In June Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise said there were “historical relations” between the two countries and “nothing would change”.

In March this year she revealed over a hundred 100 SANDF personnel were training in Cuba. South African military personnel have been going to Cuba for training, ranging from medical to pupil pilots, since 2014. With the exception of 2020 when COVID-19 levels were such that travel was not advisable, South Africa has spent R359 million on Cuban training.

Also in March, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) heard Cuban technicians, under Project Thusano, preserved 1 023 South African military vehicles and brought another 9 720 back to serviceability at a cost of over R277 million.

The total spend on Project Thusano for its duration (2015 to 2025) is estimated to be R2.6 billion.