Cuban doctors in SA see red
Pietermaritzburg - Cuban doctors have lodged complaints of gross human
violations with the Human Rights Commission in regard to the
government-to-government agreement between Cuba and South Africa.
One of the alleged human rights violations includes the dismissal of seven
Limpopo doctors, which was to beopposed in the Johannesburg labour
court on Monday with an applicationagainst the department of health to
honour their contracts.
In what the doctors believe is "a revenge attack" after a Special Assignment
programme about their plight in December, two Pietermaritzburg specialists were
told to expect dismissal letters, while seven Cuban doctors in Limpopo allegedly
were given the chop on Friday.
In a meeting on Thursday, described as "no match for the Spanish inquisition",
Cuban officials allegedly told Dr Mario Menchero, a Cuban orthopaedic surgeon at
Grey's Hospital, Pietermaritzburg, that he was a "traitor" who did not deserve to be
on the Cuban programme.
The meeting came after Menchero's cancellation of his Cuban Communist Party
membership after he openly said he could "no longer support the party's principles.
Cuban house confiscated
An Edendale surgeon received a similar threat when he refused to send his
15-year-old daughter back to Cuba in January - a requirement of a new contract,
given to the doctors in December, last year.
Besides the looming dismissal, further action was taken against the doctor.
The doctor said: "They confiscated my house in Cuba and my savings account,
my pension money, has been frozen. My daughter is very confused," the doctor
said, adding that he would not consider splitting his family.
Of the 10 children who were forced to return in January after their 15th
only one reached Cuba.
Three parents refused to send their children back, four families absconded
Spain, one child was "late" and missed the plane and another had "a fit" and was
given one month to recover.
The seven doctors in Limpopo are still recovering from the shock of being
hours to leave the hospitals where they have been working.
Some refuse to send their children back
One of the doctors in Makopane (Potgietersrus), who lives on the hospital
premises, was given 24 hours to vacate his house.
According to a letter by the Limpopo health department, the doctors "opted
the Cuba/South Africa agreement ... opting out of the agreement has implications
on relations between the republics of Cuba and South Africa."
The doctors said they were being "punished" because they either applied
permanent South African residence, or for requesting not to go to on the annual
compulsory holdiday to Cuba, or refusing to send their children back after they
One of the dismissed doctors apparently previously defected to Spain so
wouldn't lose his South African wife, after a threat that his passport would be
confiscated in Cuba.
A letter by Cuban co-ordinator Dr Jaime Davis, of which the Witness has
informed the Limpopo health department that the Cuban health minister wanted
these doctors out of the programme because they had asked for permanent
No Cuban doctor, married to a Cuban spouse, should be granted permanent
About 200 doctors have absconded
Sibani Mngadi, spokesperson for Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang,
denied that Cuba had threatened to cancel the agreement because they were
losing doctors, who applied for permanent residence or absconded to other
Apparently, close to 200 doctors have absconded since 1996.
Mngadi said both parties recommitted themselves at the end of last year.
"The provinces need more Cuban doctors. Requests from all provinces last
totalled 361 doctors and specialists needed in addition to about 450 already
working in South Africa. "KwaZulu-Natal, alone, has asked for more than 120."
In a letter to an Inkatha Freedom Party MP, Tshabalala-Msimang recently
to reinstate a Cuban doctor in the Eastern Cape after he had been allegedly
dismissed and thrown into the Umtata prision.
She said he was employed under the SA/Cuba agreement and her approval of
request to be reinstated would compromise the relations between the two countries.
Davis declined to comment, despite a fax and a follow-up call.
The "dismissal" of experienced doctors in South Africa, which thousands
African doctors are opting to quit, will leave critical gaps.
According to Dr Elmarie Pieterse, the dismissal of her specialist physician
will have serious implications for the intensive-care unit at Warmbaths Hospital in
"There are two patients connected to ventilators. With no other experienced
to run the facility, it may as well close down."