The US has criticized South Africa for accepting the help of Cuban doctors in the fight against Covid-19. The US accuses Cuba of profiting from human smuggling.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington said the US was aware of Cuba abusing the coronavirus pandemic to continue its alleged exploitation of Cuban medical workers.
Pompeo said medical workers must now be protected, more than ever before.
“Governments that accept Cuban doctors’ help must pay them directly. If they pay the government, they help the Cuban government to profit from human trafficking, ”Pompeo said.
He said the US praises the leaders of other countries who refuse to “be blind to the Cuban government’s abuse”.
South Africa’s Minister of Health, Dr. Zweli Mkhize, meanwhile, defended the government’s plan to deploy the 200 Cuban doctors here. According to Mkhize, South Africa is indebted to Cuba for its continued support of South Africa’s healthcare system.
Mkhize said Cuban doctors were not here to deprive South Africans of jobs. According to him, South Africa is in a privileged position to receive the doctors because Cuba has already committed doctors to several other countries, such as Italy.
Despite Mkhize’s explanation, there were also a lot of questions at home about the Cubans’ deployment here – especially about the hundreds of millions of rand they are allegedly chasing South Africa.
Cuba is well known for its so-called medical diplomacy; literally thousands of Cuban doctors work around the world on behalf of their country’s government, earning billions of dollars in cash for Cuba’s treasury.
Siviwe Gwarube, the DA’s spokesman on health, said it was important to note that the deployment of Cuban medical workers is a service that South Africa buys from the Cuban government, and is therefore not free.
“The country’s limited resources must be utilized to invest in our own health professionals and also in personal protective equipment for them.”
The FF Plus’ spokesperson on health, Wouter Wessels, also said questions about the costs – and which South Africa is giving Cuba in return – must be answered.