Water and Sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu will hold a presentation on Thursday morning (22 April) to welcome 24 Cuban engineers which have been brought in to help address the country’s water infrastructure issues and to share expertise.
The Department of Water and Sanitation told News24 that the budget for the project, for the current financial year, stood at R64,652,000.
It said that the core objective of the agreement will see Cuban engineers being assigned in the area of infrastructure maintenance and operation skills throughout the water value chain from source to tap.
In a statement on Monday (19 April), the department said that the engineers will be seconded to South Africa to enhance and improve government’s efforts on water delivery and related services.
“The highly qualified Cuban specialists will assist as advisors at provincial and local levels across the country, sharing their vast skills in the areas of mechanical, electrical and civil engineering, as well as project management.
“Some of the engineers’ core responsibilities include the practical exploration of sustainable use of water resources, maintenance and management of water supply and sanitation infrastructure, and the strategic planning of those resources, particularly in rural and other disadvantaged communities.”
Opposition parties have already questioned the move, focusing on why Cuban engineers are being used instead of South Africans.
The work being done by the Cubans is nothing that could not have been done by South African engineers, said ActionSA president Herman Mashaba.
“South Africa has countless unemployed engineers who are sitting at home right now, without the dignity that comes from work. They studied at South African universities, which are financed by South African taxes, and they speak South African languages.
“Our engineers are sought after all over the world because of their experience and the quality of our engineering qualifications in South African universities.”
The Democratic Alliance said that the South African government has been employing Cuban teachers, doctors and engineers for the last 20 years.
“However, there seems to be very little, if any, empirical evidence that the Cubans have made a significant contribution that local doctors, teachers or engineers could not have,” it said.
“The DA cannot help but wonder whether these employment programmes with the Cuban government is just another money-making scheme between the ANC and its Cuban comrades?
“What we do know is that the Cuban employees usually only receive a stipend while in South Africa and that the bulk of their salaries appear to be paid to the Cuban government.
“The chance for kickbacks for those organising these projects is highly likely. And all the while South African engineers, doctors and teachers are joining the unemployment line by being overlooked by the South African government.”