SAMHS welcomes returning military medical students from Cuba

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The Surgeon General of the South African National Defence Force, Lieutenant General Ntshavheni Peter Maphaha, has welcomed home 13 soldiers from Cuba after completing their military medicine studies.

The members were welcomed on 12 January, the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) reported.

One of the new graduates, Candidate Officer BA Manonga, said “We understood that this was not only a personal mission that brought about personal growth but it was a call to arms, to firstly fight against our own personal limitations and immerse ourselves fully within the Cuban society to learn all they had to teach us so we go back home and become the driving forces behind the change that our health system needs, especially when it comes to transmissible diseases that affect mostly our youth. While in Cuba we were taught the value of human life and amongst other things, the importance of family orientated medicine, which are lessons that we would like to carry with us and incorporate it in our practise as military medical doctors.”

The soldiers, the SAMHS reported, extended their gratitude to the Chief of the SA National Defence Force, General Rudzani Maphwanya, and the Surgeon General for the opportunity of studying abroad.

After seven years in Cuba, Manonga and colleagues are undergoing an 18-month integration into the South African health system with the University of Pretoria.

Hundreds of South African National Defence Force personnel have studied in Cuba over the years, with courses ranging from medical training to air traffic control, armaments, and radio technicians. South African military personnel have been going to Cuba for training, ranging from medical to pupil pilots, since 2014.

In South Africa, the most visible presence of Cuban military assistance is in Project Thusano, which sees Cuban mechanics and technicians mentoring and training South African military technical personnel on vehicle maintenance and repair.