The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) says it will oppose the court case brought against it by trade union Solidarity to reverse its decision to deploy Cuban engineers in South Africa.
Solidarity and other organisations in South Africa are opposed to the deployment of Cuban engineers in the country, arguing that the necessary skills exist in South Africa to fulfill the duties that the Cuban engineers will be responsible for.
It states that registration with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) is not compulsory and that the engineers' qualifications were translated into English and submitted to the South Africa Qualifications Authority, which approved and certified the qualifications as equivalent to engineering qualifications in South Africa.
One of the key questions raised by Solidarity during its meeting with the DWS on May 10 related to the registration provisions of the Engineering Profession Act (EPA).
The DWS states that it is aware of the registration provisions of the EPA.
"Therefore, there was no need to ensure compliance with the Act in so far as it relates to the secondment of the Cuban engineers in South Africa," the department notes.
The DWS has consulted with ECSA and was advised on the process that can be followed and the support that can be given to the department regarding the submission of applications for professional registration by the Cuban engineers.
It notes that ECSA had been invited to join the DWS to travel to Havana, Cuba, to recruit the current cohort, which is not the first, of Cuban engineers to be deployed in South Africa by the department.
"The input of the Cuban engineers in the work of the DWS is very minimal and only a fraction of the technical engineering work implemented by the DWS.
"Their presence is meant to support and complement the technical engineering work in the DWS. Therefore, the provisions of the EPA and ECSA do not prohibit the use of foreign engineers by entities and government departments in South Africa," the department argues.
"South Africa is a member of the international community and has relations with a whole host of countries including international/government-to-government agreements. Such agreements would also include similar exchanges not just in the field of water but in many other fields within government," the DWS adds.
The department says it will continue to work within the confines of the law to ensure that issues raised relating to the matter are addressed and resolved amicably.
It adds that such exchanges with foreign countries are not unique to the relation between South Africa and Cuba, but form part of the broad foreign policy of the government that guides the country’s actions and activities on the global stage.