The water and sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu defends 24 Cuban engineers brought into South Africa, saying they have not come to grab jobs at the expense of locals.
Department of Water and Sanitation clarifies 24 Cuban engineers deployed to SA. This as the department welcomed the cohort of engineering specialists in Pretoria on Thursday.
“They are not here to take anybody’s job. Any job that will be given out will be going on tender. They are here for a period of three years to mentor South Africans. The reason why we have chosen the Cubans is that we’ve had long-standing arrangements with them,” said Sisulu.
The move is to ensure that local technicians and engineers are upskilled in managing and maintaining water infrastructure.
Sisulu said the engineers will be in the country for three years while receiving stipends from the project – which expected to cost the state R61 million.
Moreover, they will be deployed across municipalities particularly those in the rural areas. The department received backlash from locals following the announcement of the Cubans’ arrival.
It comes as the local economy is in tatters translating to a high unemployment rate as well as job losses and business closures compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic – in an already weak economic climate.
It was reported on POWER Breakfast on Wednesday, the Benchmark Foundation’s David Van Wyk said it was disingenuous for the department to not employ local engineers.
“The department of water affairs is disingenuous. I have no problem with Cubans coming here, but I wonder if those Cubans will be understudied by unemployed South African engineers.”
The second problem, he noted, is failure to employ locals.
“If we employ South Africans to do these jobs, there will be less unemployment and therefore the less vandalism of the infrastructure that we have.
“We have to maintain infrastructure in order to sustain the situation in South Africa. So I don’t know what relevance will these engineers from Cuba bring.”
This as the South American country was instrumental in the fight against white-minority rule infamously known as apartheid.
The regime did not end until 1994 when anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela was elected president.