Shipment of arms to Cuba results in death threats

Guns and bullets - (Google Photo)
Guns and bullets - (Google Photo)

A senior air force officer is receiving death threats and has lost her job after raising objections to what may have been an irregular shipment of arms to Cuba by the SA Defence Force.

The officer believed that the crew of the Hercules C130 aircraft transporting the arms could face arrest if the cargo was inspected on the way to Cuba. This was after she raised objections about the flight when asked for advice by senior officers.

Her concerns were ignored and she was relieved of her duties.

The identity of the woman, a major with more than 20 years’ experience, is being withheld over concerns for her safety and that of her family.

She has confirmed that she made a statement to the Hawks’ Crimes Against the State (Cats) unit.

City Press’ sister publication, Rapport, reported in July that SAA had refused to allow its pilots to take off with a freight of weapons and other military equipment that the defence force wanted to put on a chartered plane to Cuba.

The cargo reportedly included Ratel armoured vehicle simulators, assault rifles, machine guns and pistols.

SAA had initially refused to accept the cargo because there were no export permits for the goods.

Subsequently, the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) rushed to issue a permit, but SAA still refused to accept the cargo because it is against international aviation regulations to transport passengers and arms on the same flight.

The flight was chartered because the defence force wanted to send Cuban technicians, who have been contracted to repair military vehicles in South Africa, back to Cuba on the same flight for their annual leave.

Rapport has since established that the same cargo was allegedly flown to Cuba two weeks later, on August 14 – this time, on board an air force cargo plane.

The same clearance documentation for the SAA flight was allegedly used, despite the fact that it should have been cancelled after SAA refused the cargo.

The flight took place even after the air force major informed air force command that the questionable documentation and cargo could have serious consequences for the crew, because they could be charged with illegal arms running if the flight was stopped and inspected.

Rapport understands that the flight, with its questionable cargo, landed in Windhoek, Namibia, and on St Helena, which is British territory.

This week, the whistle-blower said that since the incident, her life had been hell.

After the debacle she was transferred to another department, and last month, four days before month-end, she was informed that her contract would not be renewed.

She claims that the intimidation started shortly after she protested against the flight.

In one incident her vehicle’s internal alarm was triggered, indicating that there was a problem with a tyre.

She found fingerprints on the mudguard of her car.

She stuck her hand under the car’s bodywork and found an electronic tracking device.

At a petrol station, she put the tracking device on a delivery van.

“The next day, I got a call at work. A man told me in English that I should keep my mouth shut or there would be an accident waiting for me.”

A day later, she was on the N4 highway, travelling in the direction of Middelburg, when a powerful Mazda bakkie with tinted windows repeatedly tried to force her off the road.

The major was tasked with establishing an office that processes the import and export permits for military equipment in 2017.

Most of the applications were for arms and military equipment to be used for the defence force’s peacekeeping deployments in other countries. Such permits are required to comply with the standards set by the UN.

“But with the Cuban permits I was threatened with higher authority if I did not do what I was instructed to do. I do things according to the book, but this time I was instructed to do it differently, or else ...”

General Solly Shoke, defence force head, previously denied allegations that the military was smuggling weapons after Rapport’s initial story.

According to him, the arms are for training purposes and are part of the mutual military cooperation agreement between Cuba and South Africa.

Requests for comment sent to the defence force and the NCACC have not been answered.

On Friday, a defence force spokesperson said that senior officers “are too busy” to react to the allegation.

Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi has confirmed that charges of defeating the ends of justice and charges related to the contravention of arms export laws are being investigated by the Cats unit.


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