Defence minister appoints team to probe R125m drug purchase from Cuba

05 March 2021 - 11:55
By Graeme Hosken
Defence and military veterans minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has appointed an external task team to investigate allegations about the purchase of the drug. File photo
Image: GCIS Defence and military veterans minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has appointed an external task team to investigate allegations about the purchase of the drug. File photo

Defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has appointed a task team to investigate the SA National Defence Force’s (SANDF) controversial purchase of Interferon-B from Cuba to boost the immune systems of members deployed on the front line against Covid-19.

Hawks officers and officials from the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) were involved in a standoff with the military in January when they attempted confiscate stores of the drug from the army health services depot in Pretoria.

The military paid R125m for three consignments of the drug, purchased from Cuba in April last year, in a controversy which has embroiled defence intelligence.

The auditor-general flagged several concerns about the procurement of the drug.

Mapisa-Nqakula said she had appointed an external task team to investigate allegations about the purchase of the drug.

She said she viewed the allegations in a “very serious light”.

“The three-member task team, chaired by Zola Ngcakani, is expected to prepare a report within six months with recommendations to address any wrongdoing uncovered whether of a criminal or disciplinary nature.”

She said the team would also provide recommendations on how to “stop such behaviour and prevent it from going forward should any allegations be confirmed”.

Ngcakani is the former inspector-general for intelligence. The other task team members include former director-general Dr Cassius Lubisi and Billy Masethla, former director-general of the National Intelligence Agency (now known as the State Security Agency).​

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