SA spent R359m on training for military in Cuba since 2014
SA has spent R359m on having members of the military trained in Cuba since 2014.
The courses included training for air force pilots, air traffic control, technician studies, psychology, social work, and post graduate courses in strategic defence and mechanical engineering.
Defence and military veterans minister Thandi Modise provided a breakdown of the costs in written replies to two parliamentary questions from DA MP Sarel Marais, who asked if it was cost-effective for participants to spend a year learning Spanish before they could be trained.
Modise said only “extended courses”, medical and pilot courses, were presented in Spanish and required participants to spend a year learning the language.
“It is in the interest of the SA National Defence Force that members are conversant with other foreign languages, including Spanish, due to the multilateral military relationships of the military with the international community,” said Modise.
Asked if her department found it acceptable that defence force members were subjected to “obligatory garden work”, using machetes to cut grass under instruction of their Spanish-speaking instructors and not provided with balanced meals, Modise said the allegations would be looked into.
“The military only became aware of the allegations of ill-treatment of Cuba learners via social media platforms as no formal complaint has been received in this regard. The organisation has directed the defence attaché in Cuba to look into these allegations,” said Modise.
Marais asked how much it cost the department each year to send members to Cuba for training.
Modise gave the following breakdown:
- 2014: R15,838,547
- 2015: R24,485,149
- 2016: R15,967,981
- 2017: R83,477,610
- 2018: R73,625,956
- 2019: R72,697,854
- 2021: R73,074,191.
There was no training in 2020 due to Covid-19.
Modise said 105 military members from all services were sent to Cuba for training in August 2021. Of these, 30 were attending senior courses and 75 were sent for vocational training.
Sunday Times Daily reported earlier this month that the military had spent millions chartering an Air Zimbabwe flight to bring home eight trainee pilots who had failed an eye test, conducted with a BIC ballpoint pen, in Cuba.
“A Sunday Times Daily investigation, based on data from the international flight tracking website Flight Radar, shows between August 2021 and January 2022 the military chartered two airlines to ferry personnel to and from Cuba at an estimated cost of several million rand,” the publication said.
Marais asked what the total cost was of chartering SA Airways aircraft to fly return flights to Cuba.
Modise said the total cost of return flights to Cuba since 2017 was R136m.
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