Trade union Solidarity, on July 6, issued its court documents in its case against the Department of Water and Sanitation, challenging the legality of the controversial decision to appoint Cuban engineers.
The 24 foreign engineers were welcomed into South Africa by the department in April to “enhance and improve government’s efforts on water delivery and related services”, according to the department.
However, organisations such as Solidarity, have questioned why Cuban engineers were required when many South African engineers are unemployed.
There are also questions about what special skills the Cubans could impart to their South African counterparts.
According to Solidarity, the department and Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu did not comply with the legal requirements of Section 217 of the Constitution, which determines that State institutions must be managed cost-effectively.
As such, Solidarity calls for the decision to appoint Cuban engineers to be set aside, and argues that the correct procedure in appointing such engineers was not followed by the department. The union also alleges that there was no transparency in the process of appointing the Cubans.
Solidarity legal matters head Anton van der Bijl says Sisulu undermines the law and fails to comply with the requirements set for her. “We remind the Minister that she has an obligation towards South Africa and that she must fulfil her responsibilities. However, she does not want to comply, which leaves us with no alternative but to go to court.”
Further, Solidarity argues that the decision to appoint Cuban engineers is unethical because the designated engineers will see only a small portion of the money while most of the money will be paid over to the Cuban government.
According to Solidarity, these Cuban workers are being exploited so that the government can repay “old political debt” that had been incurred mainly by the African National Congress (ANC).
“South Africa cannot be held responsible for the ANC’s political debt. Nor can we look on while people are being exploited,” says Van der Bijl.
He says it is irresponsible and irrational to pay out any money to fund imported labour while South Africa’s workforce is beleaguered by a pandemic and unemployment. “We cannot allow tax money to be wasted in this way. We are continuing with our case, and we will continue to fight against the inefficiency and incompetence of the State,” concludes Van der Bijl.