Water and Sanitation Deputy Minister Pam Tshwete has bid farewell to 15 Cuban engineers after four years of service in the country's water sector.
The Cuban engineers, including technicians and water scientists, arrived in South Africa in 2015 as part of a bilateral agreement to help with their technical expertise in South Africa's water sector.
The group was part of the 35 engineers that were deployed in various clusters of the Department of Water and Sanitation throughout the country. Twenty of them returned to Cuba when their contract expired in June 2018.
The Cuban experts were on a four-year contract signed between the department and the Institute of Cuban National Resources four years ago. The contract was signed by the late Minister Edna Molewa during her tenure as the department's Minister and Cuban First Deputy President, Ines Maria Chapman Waugh.
Speaking to the departing group during a send-off ceremony held in Pretoria on Sunday, Tshwete said South Africa was profoundly grateful for their services in the country.
"What you've done for our country is not different from what you did in Angola. You were always there in the hour of need," Tshwete said.
She also noted that the Cubans came to fight in defence of democracy, even though they were not obliged to.
Speaking on behalf of the departing Cubans, engineer Eduardo Loriga said the group was leaving South Africa with a heavy heart.
"It feels like we are South Africans now. South Africa has become our second home. We will continue to retain our relations with this country and its beautiful people," Loriga said.