The Democratic Alliance (DA) said on Thursday that it has asked the Minister of Labour Mildred Oliphant to find out if expatriate Cuban engineers were being subjected to unfair labour practises in the Free State province.
The DA claimed that the Cuban engineers had not engaged in any work since they were brought to South Africa in May last year by the Free State provincial government.
At the time of their arrival, Free State Premier Ace Magashule said the 38 engineers had many skills from civil to mechanical.
The engineers, who were expected to build houses, help with water provision, infrastructure development and project management, were employed on three-year contracts.
“We don’t have maths teachers, it’s a skill denied to many of our people because of apartheid and so where can we turn to? We can always turn to our friends and those friends are from Cuba,” said Magashule when the engineers arrived.
But now the DA says the engineers are not doing any work, are not getting paid all their wages and their accommodation is not being paid for on time – something the party likens to “human trafficking”.
Roy Jankielsohn leader of the DA in the Free State Provincial Legislature said: “The cohort of Cuban engineers employed by Premier Ace Magashule continue to live in guesthouses across various municipalities while they have not taken up active duty since their arrival in May last year”.
Jankielsohn added: “Moreover, the DA has it on good authority from the Cuban employees that they were told to keep quiet and are not to complain. Some Cubans are showing signs of depression as a result of remaining idle”.
The DA provincial leader said “what is more shocking” was that the Cubans only receive R8 000 a month of their salaries while the balance is allegedly paid to the Cuban Government.
“This amounts to Human trafficking (slave trade) by the Cuban Government in collusion with the Free State provincial government. The DA believes that this is contrary to South African Labour legislation and is in fact criminal,” said Jankielsohn.
He said the cost to the public purse for employing these Cubans, whom he said were now 45 in number, over a period of three years was estimated to be almost R110-million.
“I have today written to the National Minister of Labour, Mildred Oliphant, requesting her to investigate what we perceive to be unfair labour practise by the Free State Provincial Government,” said Jankielsohn.