OPINION

Cuban engineers: Minister Lindiwe Sisulu did nothing wrong – MKMVA

These experts are not in SA to take away jobs, but to impart their invaluable experience

MKMVA defends Minister Lindiwe Sisulu for encouraging cooperation with Cuba, and deploying Cuban water engineers

28 April 2021

The Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) is dismayed at the shallow, counter revolutionary, attacks that have been launched against the Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, comrade Lindiwe Sisulu, for having brought in Cuban water engineers to assist our country with the persistent and serious water problems that we are experiencing, especially in rural areas.

It must be understood that the Cuban water engineers are not in South Africa to take away jobs from South African engineers, but to impart their invaluable experience and technical skills to our South African water engineers.

The Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation is on record to have lamented several times over the years that it is a battle to get our local water engineers to work in rural areas because they have families, and mostly opt to reside and work in urban areas. Thus, MKMVA is very grateful for the preparedness of the group of 24 Cuban water engineers to assist with our persistent water supply challenges, especially in rural areas. These Cuban comrades know that they are coming into a hardship situation.

At the media briefing by the Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation where the Cuban water engineers were welcomed, Minister Sisulu said: “Where we suffer most are in the rural areas and the Cuban engineers who come here know that they are coming into a hardship situation, they are coming to help us in the rural areas, where there has not been water, where nobody has come forward to say we can help you here”.

Also speaking at the same media briefing the spokesperson of the Cuban engineers, comrade Lazaro Martinez Gonzalez, emphasized that his team is in our country to serve our people. He said: “We come in the spirit of humanity and solidarity”.

It is this spirit of solidarity between South African and Cuba that must be understood, in order to be able to appreciate the historical revolutionary context within which the Cuban water engineers are being deployed to assist our people.

Cuba is a true friend of South Africa, especially of black Africans!

We should never forget the critical role that Cuba played in our liberation struggle. As MK veterans we continue to be deeply grateful for the comradeship that we experienced from our Cuban comrades in the Umkhonto we Sizwe training camps in Angola, and elsewhere. Cuban instructors trained us in counter insurgency and conventional warfare, and Cuban doctors took care of our well-being.

They made all the difference in stopping the incursion, and decisively defeating the SADF and UNITA at the epic battle of Cuito Canavale.

Cuito Canavale was a decisive turning point for the fortunes of the whole of Southern Africa, in the long and painful battle against the apartheid regime. Thousands of Cuban soldiers were deployed in a military operation that costed Cuba millions of Dollars. More than ten thousand Cuban soldiers laid down their lives, thoudsands of kilometers away from home for our liberation. President Fidel Castro and the Cuban natIon did so out of revolutionary solidarity with us, and demanded nothing in return.

President Nelson Mandela acknowledged this, and when Western European countries and the USA complained about our close ties with Cuba he rejected those complaints with contempt.

The cooperation agreements between South Africa and Cuba were personally concluded between President Mandela and President Castro. Hundreds of South African students were sent to Cuba to get trained as doctors. While the exchange programme to train medical doctors was the highest profile, we must also not forget that many other South African students were, and continue to be, trained in various academic disciplines in Cuba.

Nor should we forget the recent, and ongoing, assistance by Cuban medical doctors in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, through the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade (popularly known as the ‘Army of the White Gowns’).

Furthermore, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has benefitted hugely from Operation Thusano which had seen 94 military mechanics and vehicle technicians of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces, since January 2015, assisting with repairing 1 871 military vehicles (mostly Samil trucks), and bringing these vehicles back to full operational status. Local South African companies refused to repair these vehicles, and insisted that they could not be repaired. In doing so the Cuban mechanics saved the SANDF huge sums of money. Apart from bringing much-needed vehicles back into service, the Cuban mechanics also repaired a bio-medical workshop and other medical technology equipment, as well as a magnetic particle test bench used for diagnosing vehicle faults. In 2019 they were joined by a further 41 technical specialists who are playing a critical role in resuscitating the SA Army’s Technical Service Corps. These Cuban technical specialits also assist with the preservation of combat and transport aircraft, and contributed to an improved maintenance and preservation system in the airborne arm of the SANDF.

All of these programmes of cooperation are indeed the logical continuation of the long history of revolutionary cooperation between our two countries.

Evidently White Monopoly Capital (WMC) and their supporters/agents are not happy with this, and they have launched a vicious propaganda campaign to undermine, and discredit, the cooperation between our two countries. The reactionary attack by Chris Campbell, CEO of the white dominated Consulting Engineers of South Africa (CESA), on Minister Sisulu for the deployment of the Cuban water engineers must be seen in this context. CESA is disingenious in their attack because when Eskom brought 40 white engineers from Germany to assist with countering load shedding they did not whisper as much as a word of complaint. Then they were apparently not concerned about possible job losses for South African engineers. Evidently CESA uses their purported “concern about job losses” as a thinly veiled disguise for the real intention of their attack, which is counter­revolutionary, and intended to undermine the solidarity between South Africa and Cuba.

It is ridiculous to complain about South Africa paying very reasonable rates for the critical services that the ‘Army of White Gowns’, and others (such as the Cuban water engineers) are providing in our country. Cuba has established its revolutionary commitment to our people over and over again.

For Minister Sisulu to be atacked for drawing on Cuban expertise and continuing solidarity is outrageous and counter-revolutionary. She must be defended by all of us who continue to be true revolutionaries.

Issued by Carl Niehaus, NEC Member of MKMVA and National Spokesperson, 28 April 2021