Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu has been given less than 24-hours to suspend her department’s Cuban engineer programme, or she may have to defend its rollout in court.
The programme has courted controversy with trade union Solidarity threatening to go to court on Friday to obtain an interdict, forcing its suspension.
Sisulu has brought in 24 Cuban engineers to help repair the country’s ailing water infrastructure at a cost of R65-million.
There’s also a backlash from South Africa’s Engineering Sector.
The Vaal sewage spillage crisis exposed years of poor maintenance of water infrastructure in the country. In an attempt to address the ailing infrastructure, Sisulu is hiring 24 Cuban engineers to assist with repair work.
She insists the engineers are not in South Africa for employment, but to transfer skills and mentor local officials.
Sthembile Tshikosi, an engineering professional with over two decades of experience, feels aggrieved that the government is importing skills, that are already available in the country.
“There is no shortage of engineers in this country, therefore there’s no need to go look outside until you have exhausted every Engineering graduate out there then you can say you can bring people from outside because we struggling.
“So I would say reach out to the Engineering Council of South Africa, find out from the universities who are the graduates. Are they working? Do something on the ground before you get on the plane and go look for people from outside?”
The Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation ministry denies the decisions are aimed at undermining the local engineering sector. It says local engineers were invited to assist, but only a handful responded.
The ministry says the programme’s R64-million budget is justified as it covers the engineers’ travel, accommodation and communication expenses, as well as a stipend.
The department’s spokesperson, McIntosh Polela, says minister Sisulu previously invited engineers to assist.