Twenty-five South Africans are currently in Cuba studying medicine compliments of the SA National Defence Force’s (SANDF) SA Military Health Service (SAMHS).
This came to light following an enquiry by Afrikaans daily Beeld on the possibility of Cuban doctors coming to South Africa to work in military hospitals.
Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga told the paper there were 25 students who wanted to become military doctors currently studying towards their degrees on the island nation. There are also another approximately 30 SANDF members learning the trade of motor mechanics and “other technical training” on the Caribbean island.
The first batch of SAMHS members will spend seven years studying in Cuba before returning to South Africa to take up posts at military hospitals in Thaba Tshwane, Cape Town or Bloemfontein.
SAMHS will be sending more of its members to Cuba where they will study in other medical disciplines and social work, according to the paper.
Last month the presence of about 100 Cuban diesel and motor mechanics was made public. They were brought to South Africa by the Department of Defence (DoD). Its head of communication, Siphiwe Dlamini, said they were in South Africa to do repair and maintenance work on military vehicles. This was to provide a higher level of availability of military vehicles than was currently the case.
Responding to the Cuban medical training, opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party shadow defence and military veterans minister David Maynier said he would request a change in the relevant legislation to allow military patients to ask their doctors where they had been taught and trained.
South Africans undergoing medical training in Cuba is not new – as far back as 1997 about 3 500 aspirant doctors went there. According to Beeld, 416 of them qualified.