- South Africa has imported 24 Cuban engineers to transfer skills and knowledge around water and sanitation.
- According to Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, this was because Cuban engineers possessed certain specialities that South African engineers did not.
- The minister added the Cuban engineers have overcome challenges, have the experience and know how to do it better.
Cuban engineers have been imported to transfer skills and knowledge around water and sanitation because South African engineers do not have the necessary specialities in particular areas.
This, according to Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu who welcomed the 24 Cuban engineers to South Africa on Thursday.
"Water is a ticking time bomb for this country. You come at a time when we sorely need you. You come at a time when we would like to give our people hope," she said.
During her address, Sisulu added the Cuban engineers had specialities in areas that South African engineers did not.
She said Cuba faced similar challenges to South Africa relating to water and sanitation and managed to overcome those issues.
While Sisulu did not expand on what those specialities were, she did mention several areas where the Cubans engineers would be helping.She added:
- "We want you, in terms of our cooperation, to help us with management of water resources as well as water supply systems."
- "We want you to assist us in the assessment and evaluation of design and research and security of hydraulic infrastructure."
- "We agreed to cooperate in the areas of strategic planning, overall water resources, groundwater, surface water and seawater."
- "We also agreed on the technical exchange of programmes so that we can accelerate service delivery."
When probed during a question-and-answer session with the media, Sisulu said South Africans could do the same work but that South Africans needed to be employed.
She said they would be employed when several projects opened.
"These ones [Cuban engineers] are here for a particular purpose to ensure that they can support us as we create our own core of people and engineers and train our engineers to look after our infrastructure."
The minister also centred her response around the fact the Cuban engineers would be working in rural areas for a stipend over the next three years.
"If there had been a group of engineers who said they would live on a stipend and in the rural area, we would have taken that offer."
However, Sisulu maintained the Cuban engineers have the experience to solve the issues and "know how to do it better".
She reiterated the Cuban engineers had not been employed by South Africa to work, but would be living on a stipend while mentoring and transferring skills.
"The Cubans have a partnership with us that is based on fraternal relations as opposed to a contractual and financial relationship.
"What we are going to be paying the Cuban compatriots who are coming here is a stipend.
"The Cubans are here for a short period of time to exchange their skills. They are here for the skill transfer period, and thereafter, they go back home."
Sisulu said they had acquired skills, worked out in the most challenging conditions and that South Africa had taken advantage of this and asked for help.
News24 earlier reported the budget for the Cuban engineer project for the current financial year stood at R64 652 000.
She did not respond to a question about the breakdown of how the money would be spent.