/ 1 June 2021

Solidarity says court action against Cuban engineers’ project will continue

South African Minister Sisulu Introduces Cuban Engineers In Pretoria
Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Lindiwe Sisulu and next to her in the middle is Deputy Ambassador of Cuba in South Africa during the introduction Cuban engineers who will be working on the country's water system on April 22, 2021 in Pretoria. (Photo by Deaan Vivier/Beeld/Gallo Images via Getty Images)

The court case between Solidarity and the department of water and sanitation over Cuban engineers working in South Africa will continue, despite the trade union withdrawing its bid to seek an urgent interdict to halt the project. 

Solidarity is in the process of seeking a review application to have the department’s decision to import the Cubans declared invalid.

The trade union brought an urgent interdict application in May, pending the disclosure of information about particularities of the department’s agreement with Cuba. The department filed its response last week. 

The attempt at an urgent interdict — which was to be heard today, Tuesday 1 June  —  has now been removed from the court roll “after an agreement between the parties”, according to Solidarity. But it said it would continue with the review application, because it had received the information it wanted from the department. 

“We are quite comfortable now having already received information from the department, that we can move forward with the review application. We actually received comprehensive information to move forward,” Solidarity’s communications officer, Morné Malan, told the Mail & Guardian

As previously reported by the M&G, the department’s acting director general, Deborah Mochotlhi, said in her replying affidavit that Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu exercised her executive authority in terms of section 85(2)(b) and/or (e) of the constitution by employing the Cubans. 

Solidarity chief executive Dirk Hermann has described the department’s disclosure of information as “a first but important victory in the legal battle against the importation of Cuban engineers”.  

In April, Sisulu welcomed the 25 Cuban engineers to South Africa. They will cost the department R18.3-million over their three-year stay. 

Solidarity contends that the project undermines local engineers, who are available, qualified and registered to do the work.   

Commenting on Solidarity’s court action, department of water and sanitation spokesperson Sputnik Ratau told the M&G: “It is interesting that all of a sudden it is almost like we’ve sold out the country.”

He said the agreement between South Africa and Cuba was part of the government’s “broader international relations”, dating back to 2001. 

The department had several agreements with Cuba before this project, added Ratau. 

Solidarity is holding a press briefing on Tuesday afternoon to detail “the various nuances” on the way forward, said Malan.