Military medical students return from Cuba as CSANDF visits island nation


Nearly two dozen South African students have returned from Cuba after a six-year stint studying medicine, coinciding with recently appointed Chief of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) General Rudzani Maphwanya visiting the island nation.

The SANDF announced that 21 students had arrived at OR Tambo International Airport on Monday and were taken into quarantine in line with COVID-19 protocols.

It appears the students arrived in South Africa aboard a TAAG Angola Airlines Boeing 777, which was presumably chartered by the SANDF. According to Flightradar24, the aircraft departed Havana, Cuba, on 20 June and arrived at OR Tambo International Airport 15 hours later.

The SANDF has sent dozens of students to study various subjects in Cuba. For example, in 2015 there were 25 South Africans studying to become doctors and 30 SANDF members learning the trade of motor mechanics and other technical specialisations.

South Africans undergoing medical training in Cuba is not new – as far back as 1997 about 3 500 aspirant doctors went there and 416 of them qualified. Cuba has also trained South African Air Force pilots and air traffic controllers while others have undergone aviation technical training courses.

Meanwhile, the SANDF also revealed at the beginning of the week that Maphwanya had met with the Cuban Minister of Defence, Álvaro López Miera, during a courtesy visit at the Instituto Técnico Militar José Martí (Military Technical Institute) in Havana. This is a cadet school of the Cuban military in the Cuban capital and specialises in the training of engineers, technicians and soldiers.

The Cuban visit is Maphwanya’s first such international trip after he was sworn in as new Chief of the SANDF at a change of command ceremony on 28 May.