Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

De Lille says employment of Cubans due to challenges of attracting and retaining technical skills

By Mayibongwe Maqhina Time of article published Jul 8, 2021

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Cape Town - Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille has come to the defence of the employment of Cuban technical advisers who are paid R27 million in salaries this year by her department.

De Lille said her department has been facing challenges in filling vacancies in technical skills.

She revealed this when she was responding to parliamentary questions from DA MP Ghaleb Cachalia.

Cachalia enquired whether the department has concluded any work exchange with Cuba from 2010-11 up to the 2020-21 financial year.

He also wanted to know the total number of Cuban nationals employed in each of the financial years and those due to be employed between 2021 and 2023.

Cachalia also asked about the skills each of the Cubans possessed and the details of the total cost of employing each of the specified Cuban nationals in each case.

In her written response, De Lille said:

“I have been informed by the department that the DPWI employed Cuban technical advisers under the Cuban technical advisory programme which emanated from relations in the bilateral cooperation, as expressed in the joint declaration of the third session of the joint bilateral commission on economic, scientific, technical and business cooperation between the Republic of South Africa and the Republic of Cuba signed in September 2005.”

She also said 33 Cuban technical advisers were employed during 2010-2011 and 31 were employed in November 2016.

“Currently, 24 are still participating in the programme,” she said.

De Lille showed that the Cubans presently in her department were each paid R1 125 725 in the 2020-21 financial year.

She also said there were no plans to employ new Cubans during the 2021-23 medium-term expenditure framework period.

“The current cohort employment contract will end in November 2021.”

She also said the technical advisers possessed structural, geologist, mechanical, electrical, construction project management and facilities management skills.

“Challenges in these critical technical areas are mainly attributed to an inability to attract and retain skills in these technical fields. The department has been facing challenges in terms of filling vacancies in these areas,” De Lille said.

“The recruited skills are aligned to the Department of Higher Education and Training’s list of Occupations in High Demand 2015 gazetted on 19 January 2016,” she said.

Public Works and three other departments have employed Cuban professionals

The Basic Education Department has 19 Cuban maths and science subject specialists who are paid a total of R13 931 883 in salaries in this financial year.

The Water and Sanitation Department is also paying R64.6 million to 25 Cubans currently deployed in the country in a cooperation agreement in the field of water resource management.

The Health Department recently revealed that the remuneration of 119 Cuban medical brigades would cost R83m in the current financial year.

Meanwhile, International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor said her department had not concluded employment with Cuba while five others did.

Apart from confirming agreements signed by Basic Education, Water and Sanitation and Health Departments, she said the defence cooperation agreement was signed in January 2012, and the Defence Department could confirm numbers of the professionals it employed.

Pandor also said the Human Settlements Department had signed its cooperation agreement in November 2013, but no Cubans have been employed to date.

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Political Bureau

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