Cuban engineers to bolster water and sanitation department
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DURBAN - THE Department of Water and Sanitation has recently defended its decision to hire 24 Cuban engineers to enhance the government’s efforts in water delivery and related services.
Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu with South African Ambassador to Cuba HE Shope-Linley, Ambassador Rodolfo Benítez Verson and the president of the Cuba Hydraulic Institute, Antonio Rodriquez-Rodriquez, will lead the welcoming ceremony in Pretoria East on Friday.
Civil rights organisation AfriForum wrote to the department on Tuesday.
Its manager: environmental affairs, Lambert de Klerk, said these appointments were “a waste of taxpayers’ money”.
In the letter, AfriForum requested that the engineers’ experience and qualifications be made known, that a report describing the water and infrastructure problems be made available, and that the department supply an action plan of where the engineers would be working.
AfriForum also requested a comprehensive financial structure be made public on what these appointments will cost taxpayers.
“The department spent approximately R12 million in 2017 appointing Cuban engineers, without ever publishing a report on the work that was done.
“We also have a list of retired engineers and specialists, as well as some who are still employed, who will be more than willing to assist the department in solving these problems,” De Klerk said.
Water and Sanitation spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said the “highly qualified Cuban specialists” would assist as advisers at provincial and local level across the country, sharing their “vast skills” in the areas of mechanical, electrical and civil engineering, as well as project management.
“Some of the engineers’ core responsibilities include the practical exploration of sustainable use of water resources, maintenance and management of water supply and sanitation infrastructure, and the strategic planning of those resources, particularly in rural and other disadvantaged communities,” Ratau said.
The arrival of the engineers followed a 2014 bilateral agreement between South Africa and Cuba on co-operation in the fields of water resources management and water supply.
The department has come under the spotlight recently.
The SA Human Rights Commission launched an inquiry into the state of wastewater treatment in the Vaal River after a report showed that raw sewage had been leaking into and polluting the river and the Rietspruit Dam for months.
“We have fully qualified people who built and ran these water systems pre-1994.
“Just goes to show that the people in charge would rather waste taxpayers’ money than get the said people to fix their complete and utter incompetence to save face.
“The mentality is mind-boggling,” said Dale Brice on the Ugu Complaints Facebook group.