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SAA Chartered Plane Will Still Fly to Cuba, but Won’t Be Carrying Weapons

South African Airways (SAA) has said the charter flight which was meant to transport Cuban technicians back to the Caribbean island last week will still take place this week.

The plane was stopped by customs officials last week at the Waterkloof air force base after it emerged that the aircraft, which was chartered by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), also had a number of firearms and ammunition on board.

The Rapport newspaper reported on Sunday that an SAA plane chartered by the SANDF, that was meant to transport 150 Cuban technicians who were in South Africa to conduct maintenance on aging aircraft, was stopped at Waterkloof last week.

Customs officials discovered R4 and R5 rifles, 7.62mm light machine guns and ammunition on board. The aircraft was prevented from leaving.

SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali said the departure of the aircraft was delayed due to administrative issues.

“SAA policy does not permit for the carriage of any items deemed munitions of war, or parts thereof, regardless of the nature of the flight,” he said on Monday.

“This means, SAA does not transport any arms and ammunition as such items are classified in the category of dangerous goods class (DGR class). They are therefore forbidden on our flights.

“The flight will still operate this week as per the agreement between SAA and the client. SAA will not transport any consignment that is outside what SAA policy provides for,” he said.

Rapport reported that the SANDF required permission from the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) before it was permitted to export the firearms and ammunition.

The chairperson of the NCACC, Jeff Radebe, who is also the minister of energy, was not immediately available for comment on Monday.

He reportedly told Rapport that South Africa was a sovereign country and did not require any permission to export such firearms and ammunition. He added that such a transaction did not depend on diplomatic geo-political considerations.

SANDF spokesperson Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi referred all queries to the NCACC.

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