SANDF chief clarifies situation regarding Cuba chartered flight

South African National Defence Force (SANDF) chief General Solly Shoke reiterated on Tuesday that reports about the smuggling of arms to Cuba on a chartered South African Airways (SAA) flight were misguided and sensationalist.

Speaking at an SANDF media briefing in Centurion, Shoke said the equipment on the aircraft was being sent to South Africans receiving training in Cuba. This was so that they could train with equipment familiar to them.

Shoke said because of budgetary constraints in the SANDF, it was important to train staff to be able to work with and fix equipment in-house.

ALSO READ: SANDF rejects claims it transported arms on SAA flight, says it was equipment for training

"We felt that outsourcing is not good," Shoke said, adding that the military faced "serious budgetary constraints" and that as a result, it had opted to use its own equipment.

He described the situation at the SANDF as so dire that it was in "survival mode".

Shoke also clarified why simulators and dummy equipment were found on the flight that was meant to go to Cuba almost two weeks ago.

No weapons or ammunition found

Sunday newspaper Rapport reported that the aircraft that was meant to transport Cuban technicians back home was carrying firearms and ammunition as well.

But Shoke said both the military and the South African Revenue Service (SARS), under which customs falls, had clarified the situation.

"SARS wishes to clarify media reports that customs officials discovered R4 and R5 rifles, 7.62mm light machine guns and ammunition on board an aircraft at Waterkloof air force base last Saturday (21 July 2018)," SARS spokesperson Sicelo Mkosi said in a statement last week.

ALSO READ: There were 'neither weapons nor ammunition' on plane to Cuba - SARS

"Our customs officials were working with colleagues in the SANDF to clear the aircraft, and we can report that neither weapons nor ammunition were found on the flight or passenger luggage during the inspection of the flight and documents presented to the customs officials."

Mkosi said SARS pledged its "full commitment to cooperation with the SANDF and other relevant government agencies at national points of entry in the effort to protect the interests of the country".

SANDF spokesperson Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi said at the time: "The equipment in question was heavy vehicle simulators for training purposes and [was] cleared by customs and ARMSCOR (Armaments Corporation of South Africa SOC Ltd) following due process."