In 2015, the former MEC of Cogta and Human Settlements, Olly Mlamleli, announced that Cuban technical advisors would be deployed to Free State municipalities to develop human settlements and upgrade informal settlements. This after various visits to Cuba by former Premier Ace Magashule.
In September of 2015, the HOD of the Department of Human Settlements, Tim Mokhesi, wrote to municipalities informing them of the specified requirements of the Cuban technical advisors in terms of the ‘bilateral agreement’ between the Republic of Cuba and the Free State Department of Human Settlements. In terms of this agreement municipalities would have to pay each Cuban engineer the following:
- Remuneration at Level 11 (Deputy Director): between R596 000 and R670 890 annually;
- A free yearly return flight to Cuba;
- Transport within South Africa;
- Fully furnished housing;
- 24 hour armed response security; and
- Cellular telephone contracts.
In response to a question by the DA, the MEC of Public Works, Infrastructure and Human Settlements, Ms Koloi, indicated that the R84,7 million cost of the Cuban Technical Advisors programme after four years since its implementation between the 2015/16 and 2019/20 financial years amounts to
- R54.7 million for remuneration;
- R6.4 million for air tickets;
- R15 million for accommodation;
- R5 million for vehicles from the government garage;
- R245 000 for English and Sotho language lessons;
- R64 800 for driving lessons;
- R2.4 million for travelling and subsistence, and
- R510 000 for a ‘welcoming function’.
Since Magashule’s departure from the province, the Cuban technical advisors are down from 37 in 2015 to 3 since November 2018.
The DA received complaints from Cubans about the lack of actual work for them, the incompetence in the municipalities and only receiving only R8 000 of the R50 000 per month promised to them.
It appears that portions of their salaries were paid to the Cuban government and it has been alleged that politicians and officials of the Free State government could also have been beneficiaries of this ideologically motivated agreement.
If municipalities needed qualified engineers they could have appointed suitably qualified unemployed local graduates.
The Democratic Alliance believes that this four year experiment could amount to money laundering to get money out of municipalities and into the coffers of a foreign government that could have had benefits for officials and politicians involved.