Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane has welcomed 34 Cuban water experts, who are in the country to share their skills to improve the quality of water.
The arrival of the experts follows a bilateral agreement between South Africa and Cuba in 2014 on cooperation in the fields of water resources management and water supply.
In October 2014, Water and Sanitation Deputy Minister Pam Tshwete went to Cuba on behalf of Minister Mokonyane to ratify the agreement and to appoint the water experts.
The specialists have been contracted to work in South Africa for two years, with the possibility of extending their stay by another year.
The recruited Cuban specialists include civil, electrical, hydraulic and mechanical engineers, and irrigation and drainage specialists.
The recruitment of the engineers also involved the participation of a South African organisation of engineers, which helped the department to identify the specialists.
“The specialists will be deployed at the department’s head office in Pretoria as well as in rural parts of South Africa where there is a shortage of skill. The experts are recruited at a middle management level (deputy director) in terms of the remuneration levels of government, costing the government less than R500 000 per person per annum.”
Speaking at the welcoming ceremony held on Sunday afternoon at Sheraton Hotel, Minister Mokonyane said even though Cuba was a small country, it was a country with a big heart.
“South Africans would not forget the many Cuban soldiers who sacrificed their lives in Angola and Namibia for the sake of the freedom of the Southern African nations. Even though referred to by some historians as the forgotten war, South Africa did not forget and we shall never forget.
“We still cherish the passion that was displayed by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara for their determination to liberate our nations. We also appreciate the fact that Cuban doctors are working with our national Department of Health to improve the quality of life of our people,” Minister Mokonyane said.
She said the Cubans should engage South Africans politically during their stay in SA.
“It’s all about development and the strengthening of relationships between South Africa and Cuba. Some of you will work in far flung rural areas where the nearest town is 70 kilometres from where you live.
“Your passion to serve and the pride to maintain your national identity is inspirational to us. We encourage you to establish new friendships and new relationships because it’s in the nature of human beings to establish relationships wherever they go,” the Minister said
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