Medical students reportedly detained in Cuba

Anthony Benadie MPL

Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga

South African medical students in Cuba are apparently being detained against their will.

A concerned family member of one of the students notified the DA of the situation after receiving a text message from the relative, prompting us to call on Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza to do everything in his power to assist students from our province who are caught up in this terrible situation.

While details remain sketchy, it appears that students travelled to Havana from the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in Santa Clara, to meet with a South African government delegation at the South African embassy. It seems the students were unhappy with government over non-payment of their fees and stipends, as reported in the City Press this past Sunday.

During the course of Monday night, while waiting outside the embassy, Cuban authorities rounded up the students, forced them onto buses, and transported them to a nearby detention facility, described by one as “some sort of a base camp”.

By 21h00 last night (RSA time), the students have still not received any consular services, nor have they met with any South African government official.

The DA is astounded that the South African authorities, desperately short of medical professionals, would treat the future of the country’s health care service delivery with such disdain.

As far as can be ascertained, these students are the victims of their own government’s negligence, and are now forced to suffer the consequences.

If government is as serious over health care as it claims to be, why would it allow a foreign government to treat its citizens in such a deplorable manner? It will come as no surprise if in future years, aspiring doctors will refuse a bursary to study in Cuba, and either choose another profession, or permanently leave the country to study elsewhere.

This morning, the DA sent an urgent letter to the Office of the Premier, requesting premier Mabuza to immediately engage with his colleagues in national government, and urging for consular services to be provided to Mpumalanga’s medical students, and secure their release from Cuban detention.

The DA will also request premier Mabuza to show the provincial government’s commitment to its citizens, to make and maintain contact with affected families in the province until this crisis is resolved.

The DA will also engage with our colleagues in Parliament to interact with international relations and cooperation minister Maite Nkoane-Mashabane, as well as the necessary portfolio committees to secure the release of our fellow citizens, and if necessary, have them returned home if they so wish.

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