International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor expressed her disgust about the “whinging and whining” about the 217 members of the Cuban medical brigade who came to South Africa to assist with the pandemic.
Pandor participated in a debate during a virtual mini-plenary of the National Assembly on Thursday.
The ANC speakers in the debate, as well as the EFF’s Sophie Thembekwayo, and Al Jama-ah’s Ganief Hendricks, thanked the Cuban doctors and other medical personnel for their contribution in South Africa during the pandemic, and held it up as an example of Cuba’s commitment to “international solidarity”, particularly the global South. Cuba’s role in South Africa’s struggle and eventual dismantling of apartheid was also generously acknowledged.
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Opposition MPs generally thanked the Cuban medical brigade for their contribution, but questioned why the government brought them in at great cost, while the Department of Health has many vacancies while South African medical staff are unemployed.
Government’s decision to nominate the Cubans for a Nobel Peace Prize, announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa last month, was also criticised. Opposition MPs lauded South African medical staff and questioned why they weren’t nominated.
DA MP Lindy Wilson said she was unaware of any member of the Cuban Medical Brigade dying due to Covid-19, but many South African medical personnel did.
“How much more evidence do we need that the lives of South Africans mean nothing to this ANC government?”
She said everybody who helped end apartheid should be applauded. “But how long is the payback?”
At the start of her speech, Pandor said she was “disgusted by the whinging and whining” while people should be thankful for the support.
She said acknowledging the Cubans did not distract from the “immense gratitude” to the South African medical staff.
“Now that we have benefitted, we can not suddenly throw back the generosity,” she said.
Nominating the Cubans, a decision took by Cabinet, is in the spirit of international solidarity.
“The Republic of Cuba has been a vital embodiment of humanism and international solidarity since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1963,” she said.
“Those who have not known oppression, will not appreciate the absolutely important role Cuba contributed towards our freedom,” Pandor said.
After ANC MP Richard Dyantyi, who presided over the mini-plenary adjourned the sitting, DA MP Cameron Mackenzie said over the virtual platform: “When was the last democratic election in Cuba?”