Trade union Solidarity has asked Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu to suspend the hiring of Cuban engineers for the repair of South Africa’s creaking water infrastructure.
And if the minister doesn’t press the pause button, it intends to head to court with an application to have the programme interdicted.
The union sent Sisulu a legal letter in which it said that South Africa had 132 local engineers and specialist artisans who could do the same job.
“The minister has until Friday, 30 April, to answer, and then the content of the answer will determine whether Solidarity will bring an application for an interdict against the minister,” the union said in a statement.
Last week, Sisulu announced that 24 engineers would help with water infrastructure and maintenance “from source to tap” and that around R65 million had been budgeted for this financial year.
Most were seconded to water and river “clusters” to provide training and help local engineers and artisans with infrastructure problems.
They will receive stipends, and payments for goods and services. But the announcement was not well received in many quarters where some have argued that local engineers and artisans need the work.
Cuba and the ANC-led South African government have been in solidarity for decades, with Cuba supporting African liberation movements.
The government regards Cuba as “the backbone” of the liberation struggle.
Solidarity noted that the Engineering Council of SA raised questions over whether the engineers had the required credentials required to work in South Africa.
The department could not immediately confirm receipt of Solidarity’s letter on Monday morning, but spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said the engineers had been in South Africa since last year.