Labour union Solidarity has sent a list of more than 120 “competent and willing” engineers to Lindiwe Sisulu, Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation who can easily replace the 24 Cuban engineers who will cost millions.
This comes after Minister Sisulu welcomed the arrival of 24 Cuban engineers in South Africa earlier this week who have been brought to the country to address the ongoing water crisis.
The use of these engineers forms part of a 2014 bilateral agreement between South Africa and Cuba on co-operation in water resource management and water supply.
“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,” the Department stated.
The announcement was met with backlash from political parties like Herman Mashaba’s ActionSA, who claimed that locally trained and unemployed engineers were being ignored.
The Department of Water and Sanitation told News24 the budget for the project in the current financial year was around R64.65 million.
According to Solidarity, its list of local engineers offered more expertise at a lower cost than importing the Cuban engineers.
Solidarity CEO Dirk Hermann said that the list contained some of the country’s most experienced and knowledgeable specialists in engineering, some of whom retained masters and doctoral degrees and others who have up to 42 years of experience.
“We have reached out to the Minister with a list of some of the country’s most experienced and knowledgeable specialists in engineering, some of whom retain masters and doctoral degrees and others who have up to 42 years of experience,” he said.
“Furthermore, our list contains specialists in several fields of engineering and project management, but should the Minister require other expertise we can find those skills with the help of our Engineering Guild.”
Hermann said that there was simply no excuse not to use South Africa’s own intellectual and practical resources.
Solidarity argued that it was unjustified to import foreign workers in the midst of an unemployment crisis, in which South Africa’s official unemployment rate was currently at almost 33%, when better options were available locally.
“It is a shame that the government itself does not take the President’s call earlier this year to support local employees and businesses seriously,” Hermann stated.
“If the Minister was truly unable to find local workers who wanted to do the work, then she did not search very hard. Thus, we will bring the engineers to her.”
Solidarity added that the government had a very bad history regarding the squandering and misappropriation of tax money, and it made matters worse when the government deliberately spent taxes on foreign employees, with dubious expertise.
“Taxpayers are already fed up with almost daily seeing and hearing how their taxes are being wasted. In addition, we cannot allow the looting of these funds to take on an international colour,” said Hermann.
“The Minister’s decision is unacceptable and cannot ignored.”
“Our message is clear: Here are the leading experts in the country. They are raising their hands. They want to work. The onus now lies with government. Explain to us, them and the taxpayer why local is no longer good enough,” Hermann stated.