DA asks Labour Minister to investigate ‘slave labour’ of Ace’s Cuban engineers

By Roy Jankielsohn, Leader of the Official Opposition in the Free State Provincial Legislature:

The cohort of Cuban engineers employed by Premier Ace Magashule continue to live in guesthouses across various municipalities while they have not taken up active duty since their arrival in May last year.

As such the salaries, travel and accommodation costs to fund Magashule’s Cuban employment scheme amounts to wasteful expenditure since not a stitch of work has been done.

Moreover, the DA has it on good authority from the Cuban employees that they were told to keep quiet and are not to complain. Some Cubans are showing signs of depression as a result of remaining idle. What is more shocking is that the Cubans have indicated to us that they only receive R8 000.00 per month of their salaries while the balance is allegedly paid to the Cuban Government. This amounts to Human trafficking (slave trade) by the Cuban Government in collusion with the Free State Provincial Government. The DA believes that this is contrary to South African Labour legislation and is in fact criminal.

The total cost to the public purse for employing these 45 Cubans in the Free State over a period of three years is estimated to be almost R110 million.

Individual accommodation inclusive of meals is estimated to be around R180 000.00 annually and a total of about R24 million over their contract period, while salaries of the minimum amount per person of R569 537.00 per annum amounts to a total just short of R77 million and traveling expenses to and from Cuba over three years totals R7,5 million over three years.

In a bid to relegate the costs of funding the Cubans, the Free State Provincial Government last year instructed municipalities to carry these costs. Meanwhile, the many hydraulic engineers employed now at municipalities to build houses are not qualified for this job. Municipalities that are struggling to deliver basic services, such as water and sanitation, simply cannot afford this additional cost while receiving no benefit.

Guesthouse owners who accommodate these engineers have also raised concerns about the lack of, or late payment, by the government of boarding and lodging charges.

I have today written to the National Minister of Labour, Mildred Oliphant, requesting her to investigate what we perceive to be unfair labour practise by the Free State Provincial Government.

The DA maintains that engineers and architects could have been recruited locally at a lower cost to taxpayers while at the same time creating employment for South African professionals. Meanwhile, speculation is rife over where the excess of almost R64 million in salaries over three years will disappear to. Allegations of collusion between Cuban and Free State authorities over these funds are rife.