Cuban-trained doctors will help drive South Africa’s NHI programme: Motsoaledi

Spanish, Cuban cusine, South African medical students thrive in Cuba


JOHANNESBURG – Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says the Cuban-trained doctors will help drive the NHI programme.

He welcomed back about 250 student doctors who have just returned from studying in Cuba.

Most of them were visibly tired after their flight from Cuba was delayed.

The trainees will spend the next two years working in the country’s public health system.

Part of it will include another year of study at South African universities before going to do some community work.

The initiative is part of the long-running Nelson Mandela/Fidel Castro medical programme.

A second group of local medical students studying in Cuba are due home this week.

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Erin Bates


Over 700 South Africans have been studying medicine in Cuba since 2012 and they will be returning to South Africa on chartered flights this month.

The first group landed at OR Tambo International Airport, on Saturday evening.

The programme was launched in the 1990s and is named after Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro.

For many, the arrival of the medical students back from Cuba was a proud moment.

“Thokoza is coming back as Dr Tshabalala the first in the family,” said Thokozo Tshabalala’s sister, Makhosazana Tshabalala.

“It is just so unfortunate that my granny is no more, but you know the life that she spoke, this is it. This is our time and it is just exciting.”

The students didn’t just gain training in preventative medicine, they can speak Spanish too.

Cuba’s ambassador to South Africa Rodolfo Benítez Verson stressed the true values of the bilateral medical programme between the two countries.

“The cooperation between our two countries is for the benefit for our peoples. It is not for the enrichment of individuals or transactional corporations,” said Benítez Verson.

“It does not seek the prosperity of the few or to obtain economic advantages for our countries. It is a model of South-South cooperation based on genuine solidarity.”

For many students who spoke to eNCA, Cuban cuisine took some adjusting to along with studying medicine in Spanish.

Health minister Aaron Motsoaledi says the Cuban trained doctors will be the foot soldiers of the National Health Insurance initiative.

Around 700 new students are expected to join the programme in Cuba next year.


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