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Dept sticks to its guns on Cuban engineers, will meet union in court

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“We need to break the secrecy surrounding the arrival of the Cubans, what they are supposed to do, how the money would be spent, and whether the Cuban engineers are registered,” says Solidarity CEO Dirk Hermann.

Minister Lindiwe Sisulu. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

THE DEPARTMENT of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has stuck to its guns over its decision to second Cuban engineers in the country, saying it was ready to meet trade union Solidarity in court.

The department confirmed receiving the union’s court papers, saying the court application would be opposed.

Earlier this week, the union said it served court papers to the Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, on the imported Cuban engineers, after she did not meet the deadline to submit a proposal to defuse the dispute between Solidarity and the government regarding the deployment of the engineers.

Its chief executive, Dirk Hermann, claimed: “Important information is still being withheld from the public. It should not be that difficult to obtain information about the use of tax money.

“We need to break the secrecy surrounding the arrival of the Cubans, what they are supposed to do, how the money would be spent, and whether the Cuban engineers are registered.”

The department said that as an interested party Solidarity does have the right to seek the kind of recourse they deem fit.

“But as a department we believe that we have addressed the matters raised adequately,” DWS said in a statement on Saturday.

It also referred to a “frank and robust” virtual meeting with Solidarity on May 10.

This was to provide clarity on questions raised by the trade union.

One of the union’s questions related to the registration provisions of the Engineering Profession Act (EPA).

“In this instance, the Department can state that it is aware of the registration provisions of the EPA and notes that the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) has not yet made it compulsory for engineering professionals to register with the Council.

“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,” said DWS.

As Cuba was not presently a member of the International Engineering Alliance (IEA), this did not mean the IEA could discredit the academic qualifications of institutions in countries that were not its members.

“Cuban engineering qualifications are not deemed to be inferior and irrelevant.

“Adding to this, the department can confirm that it 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,” said DWS.

The qualifications of the engineers were translated into English and submitted to SAQA which approved and certified the qualifications as equivalent to engineering qualifications in South Africa, said the department.

“Subsequent to this, a submission and approval of the engineers’ qualifications was completed prior to their arrival in South Africa and their appointment in the department.

“The department reiterates that the input of the Cuban engineers in the work of the department is very minimal and only a fraction of the technical engineering work implemented by the department.

“Their presence is meant to support and complement the technical engineering work in the department.”