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Cuban Engineering Specialists for South Africa

Deputy Minister of Water Affairs Ms Pamela Tshwete with Deputy Minister of Water Resources Cuba Ing. Mr. Abel Salas Garcias signing a MOU between South Africa and Cuba on Water and Sanitation. Photo: Jacoline Schoonees


Deputy Minister of Water Affairs Ms Pamela Tshwete with Deputy Minister of Water Resources Cuba Ing. Mr. Abel Salas Garcias signing a MOU between South Africa and Cuba on Water and Sanitation. Photo: Jacoline Schoonees

The Deputy Minister for the Department of Water and Sanitation, Ms. Pamela Tshwete lead a delegation of her department to Havana, Cuba, where she officiated a handing-over ceremony of 37 Cuban engineering specialists. The Cubans are being handed over by Ms. Maria Ines Chapman, who is the President of the Institute for Water Resources of the Republic of Cuba.

This comes as part of the Minister's programme to augment technical skills in the Department of Water and Sanitation, in line with the intentions of her Budget Vote speech of 2014/15.  The programme will also serve to ensure that the vision of the Department's 10 year plan of enhanced water supply and sanitation services is fully implemented with readied skills, which are not only academically sound but strengthened through the seasoned mentoring by these Cuban specialists. Furthermore it is also important that more should be done in the short term to obtain engineering expertise to assist with mentoring and to fill the gap that will emanate from our ageing expertise and retirement in the department.

The specialists will be deployed within the National Water Resource Infrastructure Operations Unit and Regional Offices to support service delivery.

While the Department of Water and Sanitation's own Learning Academy has contributed immensely to the recruitment of younger engineers and facilitated their professional registration, the role of the Cuban specialist will be to further mentor this young talent to be able to utilize their skills fully to capacitate the various functions of the Department, mainly in engineering.

In May 2014, a delegation led by Mr. Leonardo Manus, the Chief Director for Infrastructure Operations, departed to Cuba to conduct pre-selection of the Cuban Specialists to be seconded to the Department. The secondment has been agreed to by the Department of Water and Sanitation of South Africa and the Institute of Water Resources of Cuba. These  teams agreed on the following: Verification of the Cuban Institutions of Higher Learning or Universities on the content of the qualifications offered to these specialists, engaging the National Water Resource Institute of the Republic of Cuba to determine the work experience of each specialist, visits to sites where the Cuban specialists were currently performing their official duties, determining their English proficiency, as well as engaging the individual specialists on their levels of expertise in their various fields.

Minister Mokonyane departing to Havana on 25 October 2014.

During her visit in Cuba, the Minister will discuss the contents of the Memorandum Of Agreement signed by the two heads of the May delegation, hand over appointed letters to selected Cuban specialists and finally, officially accept the candidates to be seconded to the Department.

This secondment agreement started in December 2001 when the first Cooperation Agreement between the former Department of Water Affairs (DWA) and the Republic of Cuba in Water Resources Management, Water Supply and Sanitation was signed. That Agreement was valid for five (5) years and expired in December 2006. Under that Agreement, two groups of Cuban specialists were seconded from Cuba to the Department from April 2002 until August 2007 for two years and three years respectively. The Cuban technical specialists were spread across the Head Office and all the nine Regional offices of DWA.

Upon the lapse of the above mentioned Agreement, the Department conducted a further needs analysis to gauge interest within the DWA, whether there is still a need to engage and utilize the Cuban secondment programme and a positive response was shown from the majority of the Chief Directorates to again recruit the Cuban specialists to address the filling of critical technical gaps.

Subsequently, the Branch: International Water Cooperation (IWC) re-negotiated the Agreement with Cuba and finalized the negotiations in March 2013, after which the Agreement was sent through the legal processes in preparation for the signing. The Agreement was signed in South Africa at OR Tambo International Airport, Southern Sun Hotel on the 9 September 2013 by former Minister Ms. Edna Molewa and her counterpart Ms Ines Maria Chapman Waugh.

The Cuban secondment programme is meant to assist the Department in the following mutually agreed areas:

(a)  the geo-hydrology and engineering services in rural and other disadvantaged areas where such services are inadequate;

(b)  the exploitation of the available water resources;

(c)  the infrastructure for water supply

(d)  the capacity building through training and support of local staff; and

(e)  the water management and water supply.

The relocation of the Cuban specialists should take place as soon as the immigration process is concluded by the Department of Home Affairs of the Republic of South Africa and all other necessary requirements have been adhered to by both parties, such as the issuance of flight tickets to candidates by the DWS and assurance of accommodation in South Africa through diplomatic channels.

Department of Water and Sanitation of South Africa



November/December 2019











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