SA, Cuba commemorate 27 years of diplomatic relations


South Africa will always vote in favour of the annual United Nations resolution, calling for the end of the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba.

According to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), this is based on principle and solidarity with the government and people of Cuba.

“Both countries also maintain excellent cooperation in the multilateral arena, through mechanisms such as the Non-Aligned Movement, the Group of 77 and the United Nations system.”

This comes as Minister Naledi Pandor and her Cuban counterpart, Bruno Rodriquez Parrilla, virtually commemorated 27 years of formal diplomatic relations between their two countries. The two Ministers spoke through a video call on Thursday.

According to the department, Presidents Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro formalised diplomatic relations between South Africa and Cuba on 11 May 1994.

“However, the deep and special relationship between the two countries dates back well before 1994. It was cemented on the battlefields of southern Angola, where almost half a million Cubans joined their destiny with that of African combatants to reject the military intervention of apartheid and neo-colonialism on the continent.”

The department said Cuba remains a strategic partner for South Africa in the Latin American region and multilateral fora.

“The relations are characterised by high-level political dialogue as evidenced by annual meetings of the Joint Consultative Mechanism.”

The department said the countries’ relations continue to display a good model of South-South cooperation and human solidarity in the areas of health training and services, human settlements technical exchange, science and technology, public works technical assistance, cooperation on water resource management and water supply and professional services in the field of basic education.

The department has defined the South Africa-Cuba Health Cooperation as the flagship bilateral cooperation programme.

Currently, the department said just under 600 South African medical students are studying in Cuba at various levels.

In addition, at the request of South Africa, 217 Cuban medical practitioners, part of the Cuban Medical Brigade, were deployed throughout the country in April/May 2020 to assist South Africa in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic.

South Africa has since nominated the Cuban Medical Brigade for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize

The department believes that the special and historic relations of solidarity between South Africa are best summed up in the words of Pandor when she stated: “South Africa and the Republic of Cuba are bonded by a noble history of freedom struggle. The current relations between South Africa and Cuba are morally pedigreed as well as embedded within the doctrine of South-South Relations”.

The department said the Minister affirmed this in her budget speech on 20 May 2021 “we continue to support Cuba and work closely with that solid friend of South Africa”.